Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Fate of Many Lost Pets Revealed

In April 2006, several dogs were stolen from neighborhoods in Raymore, Mo. In January 2006 some small-breed dogs were reported missing in Franklin County, Ill. In Oct. 2005, a Labrador retriever was taken from his yard in Conneaut, Ohio.

Where did the animals go? Did they run away? Did someone find them who will care for them? Or is something more sinister going on? One early 2006 case reveals the sad fate of many stolen animals.

In Elvira, Iowa, residents Ted and Jessica White noticed their two Labrador retrievers missing and thought the dogs had simply wandered away from their rural property. When the dogs didn't come home that night, the couple printed flyers and talked to their neighbors. They discovered that not only were their two dogs missing, but five other Labs had also gone missing in recent weeks.

Staff members of the Clinton Humane Society and Clinton County Sheriff's Office suspected that dogfighters might have stolen the Whites' pets to use them as "bait" for training fighting dogs. Dogfighters routinely dump dead bait dogs and steal new ones. A boat dock owner along the Mississippi River in Clinton County found three dead dogs washed up on his property: a pit bull, a Labrador retriever, and a smaller dog. Both the pit bull and the Lab had suffered wounds consistent with dogfighting.

Lost or stolen dogs could end up in the hands of dogfighters, or even Class B dealers, who sell dogs from random sources to research institutions for use in biomedical research, testing and education procedures. Beloved family pets can also become unfortunate victims of bunchers, who have been known to acquire dogs through lost, stray and "free to a good home" ads—even to take pets from their owners' backyards—and then sell them to Class B dealers. At Class B dog dealer facilities, there have been numerous documented cases of mistreatment, neglect, and other animal welfare violations.

Of the dogs and cats stolen in the United States every year, only an estimated 10 percent ever find their homes again

What can pet owners do to make sure that their friends and companions remain safe at home?

* Keep your pet indoors, especially when you are not at home.
* Identify your pet with a collar and tag, microchip or tattoo.
* Be aware of strangers in the neighborhood, and report anything unusual to the police
* Padlock gates, and make sure people can't access your pets over fences.
* Keep your pet on a leash whenever you go outside.
* Make neighbors aware of the problem of pet theft.
* Know where your pets are at all times.
* Support the federal Pet Safety and Protection Act, now before Congress, which ensures that cats and dogs used by research facilities are obtained legally.

And here are some things not to do:

* Don't let your pet roam free in the neighborhood.
* Don't let your pet be visible from the street.
* Never leave pets unattended at any time.
* Never leave pets outside a store or in the car to wait for you.

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