Walking your dog is now a safety threat: For both you and your dog. This will not stop me, nor should it stop you, from walking your dog. It should, however, be a precautionary tale that it is 2016 and the world has changed. There are vile people in this world who concoct horrific ways to steal your dog away for drug money, dog fighting, to sell to a lab, or worse. There are ways to protect your dog from being stolen.
There are scammers in the world who, when a dog goes missing, will call the desperate pet parent and demand money before returning the dog. Once this money is wired, the person never calls back: It is a scam in many situations.
In his New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker writes, “I cannot offer a checklist of what to do for each type of hazard you could encounter…Listen to your intuition.”
I like to call this my “gut instinct:” and it never fails me. What you are about to read involves trusting your gut instinct, but often times these tips involve simply being aware. It seems like in this day and age we need to have eyes in the backs of our heads. Yes, we really do. Don’t fear the world, but know the world and environment that surrounds you and your dog(s).
Here are 7 threats to dog parents to know about the next time you plan to take your dog for a walk:
Threat: Casing Your Path
Stick to the paths most traveled. It sounds like common sense, but unless you are in a well-traveled area that you can scream out for help, avoid routes that take you off the beaten path. Sadly, thieves see our companion dogs as easy targets and a quick and easy way to make a buck. On the flip side, I’ve read stories over the years of dog walkers or pet parents being attacked while out on their daily routine walk with Fido. Obviously, if someone knows your route, they can plan their attack. Keep a cell phone, high pitched whistle, and mace with you. If you are able to walk with someone, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Threat: The Cut and Run
The New York Daily News reports the national trend of dog flipping wherein pooches are stolen from their owners and resold for a profit. Someone may try to get you or your dog’s attention while another assailant runs up from behind, cuts your dog’s leash and then runs off with your pooch.
How many times has someone approached you to ask who your dog is, how old he is, they have a [insert popular} breed at home and can I pet your dog type thing. This is part of the norm in my life as a busy dog mom, but I am astute to where I chat and with whom. One woman was walking her dog during the daytime in a busy Queens, New York park, when she was approached by two men. They “oohed” and “aahed” over her Cocker Spaniel and then assaulted her and stole the dog, who was sadly found dead days later.
Christmas Eve should be a time of peace and solace, but for Cory and Sarah Malchow, it was the start of a nightmare. In 2013, Sarah was walking her dog when she was attacked from behind and her 4-month-old Pit Bull mix was stolen. Reports indicate that one assailant grabbed Sarah from behind, held her in the air, and threw her to the ground. Meantime, another assailant approached from behind, unclipped the dog from his leash, and took off in a car. Thankfully, the dog was recovered unharmed.
Know your surroundings. Experts warn dog parents never to give information to strangers about “how much a dog costs” or any other suspicious questions. It’s better to be rude than to be sorry. This is 2016, after all.
Threat: The Dog Beach Hijack
While walking one’s dog along a pet-friendly beach, one might be inclined to allow said dog to frolic off leash with other dogs. Once that leash is undone, your dog is a sitting duck. I recall the story of a bulldog who was visiting a dog-friendly beach in California years ago. While the dog played with the other friendly pups near the water, he was literally snatched away. If pet parents are busy chatting and their dogs are even close by, anything can happen. It only takes a few seconds for a child or pet to go missing. In this case, the dog was never recovered.
Be cognizant of your surroundings and for me, I just no longer allow my dog off leash where there is any sort of human threat. It used to be the threat of another dog attacking that scared me and of course, now it has evolved into the human threat. The times have evolved and changed.
Threat: Know the Leash Laws
Aside from the safety threat to other people and pets and to the dog in general, most towns have specific leash laws in place for a reason. Leash laws protect people and pets but they also protect pets from sinister human beings. It is incredibly frustrating to head out for a walk and to see someone allows their dog to walk off leash with them because “he’s friendly and he stays by my side.”
Several states prohibit dogs “running” or roaming at large. According to an Animal Law website, “Even though a state might not require that an owner use a leash when the dog is off-premises, the law may allow impoundment of “at-large” dog.”
Your loose (and yes he is loose if not on a leash) dog is a moving target for theft no matter how big or protective of you he is.
Threat: The Sitting Duck
There is no valid reason why a dog should be tied up, even for “just a minute” while the dog parent runs into a store. A 7-year-old girl was out shopping with her mom for the Christmas holidays recently and leashed her dog up outside the store. As the duo perused items, a thief was caught on hidden surveillance unleashing Marley, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The thief attempted to sell Marley on the streets, where a teacher bought the dog because she felt something was wrong. The dog was eventually reunited with his family, but this is rare. Criminals are waiting for you to leave the leash behind, with the dog attached. If you wouldn’t leave a baby alone outside, apply the same principle to your pets. The bottom line: Don’t do it.
Threat: Your Cell Phone
Stop texting while walking your dog. You are distracted and thieves know this. Further, I know of a couple who took their dog for a walk, spent the time looking at their phones, and the dog ate something very nasty and ended up in the emergency room. Have down time and just bond with your dog.
Threat: Your Social Shares and Check-Ins
There is no need to tell the entire world when you are exiting your home and where you are presently walking your dog. You are inviting trouble. I know the temptation is there, and social media is something in which we all engage. Just be careful about sharing too much. Thieves have phones and tablets, too.
How to Protect Your Dog
Keep Info Current
If your stolen, lost, or missing dog happens to luck out and end up at a shelter, the chances of a reunion with you increase dramatically if that dog is microchipped. Though collars can be taken off by thieves, identification tags that remain intact, especially something like a PetHub tag using QR code, increase the chances of reunion. If you move or change phone numbers, update the microchip contact info. The bottom line: Keep identification current and get a microchip.
Get a Trusted Sitter or Dog Walker
If your dog must spend long periods of time home alone, even after you come home at lunch to take him out for a walk, he is still at risk. A pet sitter, doggie daycare, or a security system are all viable options to prevent pet theft. Thieves case homes where pets are left alone, and sadly, homes are cased to wait for the right moment that dogs are home alone. The bottom line: If you must leave your dog alone for any significant period of time, ask a neighbor to watch your house and return the favor with a neighborhood watch. I also never leave my dog alone in a hotel room when I travel.
This is a thief’s best friend: The property that is poorly lit, without a secure lock on a gate, and out of view of passersby. “It happened in broad daylight” is something that has become all too common as it relates to pet theft. Use an alarm or bell, and if possible, a security light, so you can hear and see anyone who comes on your property. The bottom line: Good fences make good neighbors. They also keep criminals away, and coupled with pet parent supervision, they keep dogs safe and secure. Ask neighbors to keep an eye on your property and offer to do the same for them if they are pet parents.
This is a thief’s best friend: The property that is poorly lit, without a secure lock on a gate, and out of view of passersby. “It happened in broad daylight” is something that has become all too common as it relates to pet theft. Use an alarm or bell, and if possible, a security light, so you can hear and see anyone who comes on your property. The bottom line: Good fences make good neighbors. They also keep criminals away, and coupled with pet parent supervision, they keep dogs safe and secure.
How are you protecting your dog during walks?