Along with the flowers and chocolates for Valentine's Day, you should also be aware that this day is recognized as National Pet Theft Awareness Day. An organization called Last Chance for Animals is trying to educate the public on this serious issue. LCA is a national, nonprofit animal protection organization.
National Pet Theft Awareness Day is aimed at raising the public's awareness of a threatening epidemic in the United States.
Nearly 2 million companion animals are stolen each year. They are abducted from back yards, taken under a false pretense through "free to good home" ads in the local newspaper, or taken from pounds and shelters through a practice known as pound seizure.
These animals then are brought to research laboratories, puppy mills and dogfighting rings. The lives of these animals are filled with abuse, neglect, cruelty and death. Stolen-pet dealers can make between $200 and $800 per dog and $100 to $200 for a cat, according to LCA.
Lobbying for change
Last Chance for Animals is pushing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to adopt harsher punishments for those convicted of pet theft and cruelty to animals and stricter licensing standards for Class A and B dealers. Currently, Class B dealers are those who obtain animals from random sources. Class A dealers deal in specified breeds. LCA is supporting The Pet Safety and Protection Act, which amends the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit Class B dealers from supplying cats and dogs to research facilities.
Here are some ways to protect your pet:
UDo not leave your companion animal unattended in the back yard. It takes only a minute for your animal to disappear. Walk your pet on a leash when not on your property.
UDo not leave your pet tied outside of restaurants or stores and don't leave it in a parked car.
UDo not use "free to good home" ads to place an unwanted pet. Take it to a shelter or ask the staff at the shelter on how to do an adoption.
UDo not place your animal until you see the new home, check references and call their veterinarian.
UDo not place an animal until the potential owner has signed an adoption contract and paid some fee.
UReport suspicious neighborhood activities and missing animals to the police.
UKeep your animals inside when you are away from home or if expecting repair people, meter readers, etc.
USpay and neuter. Altered pets are less likely to stray from home.
UKeep collars, ID tags and licenses on your animals. Ask your veterinarian about using microchips as an alternative.
UKeep cats indoors. Indoor cats live safer, longer and healthier lives.
UKeep recent photos of your pet and a written description on hand at all times.
It would be hard to imagine the feeling of having a pet stolen, never knowing what happened to a beloved companion animal. Only 10 percent of stolen pets are returned home. Don't let your pet become a victim. Be aware and educate family, friends, and neighbors about pet theft. For more information visit www.StolenPets.com or www.LCAnimal.org.
XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.