Are dognappings yet another sign of uncertain financial times?

cute and little

"I know I'm cute and little, but please don't kidnap me." Image: mikebaird/Flickr/CC BY

Desperate times lead to desperate measures. And, although national crime has gone steadily down each year, one crime seems to be on the rise — dog theft. Some find the trend indicative of the poor economy. Others cite more mundane reasons and warn against jumping to conclusions.

Ransom demand for bulldog

Jennifer Thomas, a wheelchair-bound woman in Woodland, Wash., recently had her English bulldog Jaggar kidnapped. The abductors even sent a ransom note via text demanding $1,000 and prescription pain medications on the threat of torturing and killing her beloved pet.

Despite warnings about going to authorities, Thomas contacted the Cowlitz County police. However, according to the Seattle Times, the detective assigned to her case is on vacation. So the investigation remains on hold.

“I just … want him back,” Thomas said.

dognappings on the rise

Even as the economy remains stagnant, spending continues to rise in the pet industry. It seems caring for pets is one place where people will not skimp. Criminals are taking advantage of that dedication.

According to the American Kennel Club, the number of stolen dogs has risen dramatically in the last year. There were 224 cases of dogs reported stolen in the first seven months of 2011, compared to 150 from the same period in 2010. That figure was only 162 for entire year of 2009.

Some blame the economy

Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the AKC, told USA Today in August, “the motivation is money and economics.”

According to Peterson, small, so-called “lap dogs” are the most commonly targeted. They are easier to carry away and very popular to sell over the Internet. Another scam is to return the animals if a reward is offered, telling some story as to how the dog was found. It is less risky than leaving a ransom note and much easier to pull off.

Is recession the Great Scapegoat?

Since the Great Recession, according to Time, every quirky trend or statistic tends to get blamed on the economy. Some examples cited by Time included decreased amounts left by the tooth fairy, diminished sales of underwear and an upswing in married men having affairs.

But Annie Lowrey of the news site Slate is unconvinced that the economy is to blame for the spike in puppy-nappings. She wrote:

“Dogs are cheap or free to acquire through perfectly legal means but expensive to own. They need food, shelter, Frisbees, and veterinary visits. The recession seems like a reason not to have a dog, not a reason to steal one.”

Moreover, she insists that most dogs, though loved by their owners, are not worth very much on the open market. “A recession-driven thief would be better off stealing a bicycle,” she said. She adds that many dogs reported as stolen have actually run off or met their fate someplace away from home.


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