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Microchipping furry friends a frontline defence in dognapping

Identification is the number one safety precaution when it comes to pet abduction, says CEO of the Regional Animal Protection Society.
"Every pet should be microchipped, in case they are separated from their people for any reason," says Eyal Lichtmann, CEO of RAPS.

Lady Gaga’s dogs, Koji and Gustavo, were kidnapped in 2021. In this extremely serious incident, the singer’s dogwalker was shot and the dogs taken, apparently not because they belonged to a famous singer but because their particular breed can bring thousands of dollars in an apparent black market for French bulldogs.

Closer to home, a shocking break-in and brazen dognapping took place near Fort St. John, in northern B.C. and there was a bizarre incident in Calgary, in which a woman was swarmed and her puppy taken. 

These incidents are a sign that dognapping is not as rare as one might think.

“Preventing your pet from being abducted is sadly something we need to consider,” says Eyal Lichtmann, CEO of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

The number one safety precaution, he says, is identification. 

“Every pet should be microchipped, in case they are separated from their people for any reason,” he says. “In the case of theft, you would be surprised how difficult it could be to prove ‘ownership.’”

Police are likely to treat a dognapping (or catnapping or other pet abduction) as theft, Lichtmann says. 

“As unfair and unfeeling as it may seem, you need to be able to prove the pet belongs with you,” he said. “Just because a dog comes running, ecstatically greeting you like you are their pet parent may not hold up in court.”

A custody dispute, in which domestic partners battle over a pet, is another source of concern, he says, and this can be complicated.

“When a couple adopts a pet together and then splits up, who gets the pet is a legitimate concern,” he says. “B.C. has recently made important advances around animal custody in family law. Even so, before this gets to court, an abduction is still likely to be treated by police in the same way they might treat one spouse taking a piece of furniture the other one wants. It’s very problematic.”

In addition to microchipping, Lichtmann urges people to make sure their property is secure, with locked gates if possible, and do not leave pets unattended. Be discreet about your pet’s information on social media. (This is especially true since many people use pet names for passwords, which also compromises personal privacy.) Don’t leave pets off-leash and out-of-sight. Be sure they are trained to respond to commands like “come” so they do not wander off and be vulnerable to abduction. 

“It may seem a bit paranoid, but consider varying your walking routines,” Lichtmann says. 

Above all, stay informed about problems in your area and be aware of suspicious behaviours.

“We don’t want to raise unnecessary suspicion or fear,” he says. “But a little preparation is better than a heartbreaking loss of a family member.”

Pat Johnson is the communications manager at the Regional Animal Protection Society.