Frightening Facts and Dog Theft Statistics PLUS Getting Your Dog Back

In this article we’ll cover some of the most common dog theft statistics. This is a serious problem with serious consequences. Use the table of contents below to skip down to the facts and stats.

But first a story…

In 2010 I was attending Bridge Day in Fayatteville, West Virginia with some friends. Face jumpers get that one day to jump off one of the longest and highest steel arch bridges that spans the New River Gorge.

We we’re pumped and excited to see all the jumpers, walk the bridge, and hang out. One of my friends brought her golden retriever mix.

When we arrived the staff pointed out that no dogs were allowed on the bridge. No worries. My friend though we could tie up the dog for a bit, walk the bridge, then come back in a few minutes and head out.

Sadly, when we returned the dog had been stolen. My friend was devastated. It had never crossed our minds that anyone would do this. We weren’t even gone that long.

Yes yes, hold your judgements and “I told you so” thoughts. We never in a million years would suspect anyone doing this.

And that’s why we wanted to compile this article. So others, similarly naive as us, never have this happen.

Without further delay let’s get on to the topic of dog theft.

The Top Dog Theft Statistics

  • According to the American Humane Society over 10 million pets are lost each year (AHS).
  • Of the 10 million only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats without tags or chips are returned to their owners (AHS).
  • According to Petfinder up to 2 million animals are stolen each year (Petfinder).
  • Only 10% or reported stolen animals are returned (Petfinder).
  • According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) the top stolen dogs in the US are as follows (AKC):
    • Yorkshire Terrier
    • Chihuahua
    • Bulldog
    • Pomeranian
    • Shih Tzu
    • German Shepherd Dog
    • Pit Bulls

These next stats come from a UK study of pet theft. They reviewed records from dozens of police stations to pull these numbers. They are some of the most reliable on the web.

Sadly this type of study has not been done in the US yet. Let’s make it happen Petfinder!

  • 1,788 dogs were stolen in the UK and Wales in 2016. That number rose to 1,909 in 2017 (MDPI).
  • Of the 1,788 dogs stolen in 2016 in the UK, only 64 (3.5%) turned into criminal or civil charges (MDPI).
  • In 2017 the most commonly stolen dog breeds were the following (MDPI) [Percent change up or down since 2016]
    1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier – down 15% since 2016
    2. Crossbreed – down 22%
    3. French Bulldog – up 27%
    4. Chihuahua – up 4%
    5. Jack Russell – down 13%
    6. Labrador – up 42%
    7. Cocker Spaniel – up 77%
    8. Bulldog – down 30%
    9. Husky – up 260% – thank you Game of Thrones 🙁
    10. Springer Spaniel – up 88%
Most Stolen Dog Breeds 2017 in UK
Most Stolen Dog Breeds in 2017 in UK. Source – Animals 2019, 9(5), 209;
  • National Pet Theft Awareness Day is February 14th
  • Most states consider dogs “personal property.”
  • Only 15 states have pet theft laws. These states are:
    • California
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Louisiana
    • Michigan
    • Mississippi
    • New Hampshire
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • Oklahoma
    • Rhode Island
    • Virginia
    • Texas
    • Washington
    • West Virginia
  • Stealing a dog, horse, pony, mule, cow, steer, bull, or calf in Virginia is a Class 5 Felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail (Virginia State Law).
  • Theft of ANY ANIMAL in Louisiana that costs more than $500 is punishable by hard labor up to 10 years (Louisiana State Law).

12 Ways to Protect Your Dog and Prevent Dog Theft

  1. Don’t leave your dog alone in public places
  2. Take your dog with you into the store or leave your dog at home
  3. Don’t leave your dog in an unlocked car (or in a car at all if possible)
  4. If a stranger asks about you or your dog during a walk be friendly but don’t give out personal details like where you live or your dog’s breed (people steal breedable dogs for money)
  5. Spay or neuter your dog and make this obvious (on the tag). This helps prevent breeder theft.
  6. Don’t leave your dog tied up alone
  7. Change your daily walk locations and times – spice things up so thieves can’t case your patterns
  8. Only use trusted dog kennels, doggie daycare, and well reviewed Rover and other online sitters.
  9. Be wary of using craigslist to find people to watch your dog – do a background check
  10. Keep your dog inside if you aren’t at home
  11. Know where your dog is at all times
  12. Use dog tags and keep them on plus get an RFID chip and make sure it’s activated and functioning.

What To Do If Your Dog Gets Stolen (13 Steps)

  1. Act Quickly – the faster you respond the more likely you’ll get your dog back
  2. Call the police and report everything
  3. Report the theft on the Nextdoor app. Sign up for an account and do this if you don’t have one. Include your dog’s pictures.
  4. Report the theft on neighborhood Facebook groups. Include pictures of the lost/stolen dog.
  5. Hang flyers around your neighborhood and at your local grocery stores.
  6. Offer a reward. After breeder theft the next most common reason is to sell the dog directly followed by getting the owner’s reward.
  7. Tell all your neighbors. Give them flyers.
  8. Check for local missing pet websites and post there.
  9. Visit all your local shelters, give them flyers, and report the theft.
  10. Check all local breeders within 100 miles. Report the theft and give them flyers. Stealing special breeds is the most common reason for dog theft.
  11. Check craigslist for dogs for sale or special breeds for sale. Contact all that match your dog.
  12. Check other online sites for dog sales in your area
    1. Fido Finder
  13. Check online and with the local ASPCA or PETA to see if they know of any dog fighting clubs. This is illegal and will be hard to find. It’s less common but still happens. Dogs are stolen to act as “bait dogs” for fighting clubs.
  14. Do NOT approach suspects that might have your dog. Call the police and get them involved.