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California Dognapping Scam Highlights Growing Problem

PHOTO: There is a rising number of pet thefts across the nation.
PHOTO: There is a rising number of pet thefts across the nation.
May 4, 2015

LOS ANGELES - Police are warning pet owners about a dog-napping scam, one that highlights a sharp national increase in stolen pets.

Recently, two women in green uniforms showed up at a house in Echo Park falsely claiming to be with the Los Angeles Police Department Animal Cruelty Task Force. They told the pet owner there had been multiple complaints about the animal being abused. They showed him an official-looking flier with LAPD's real phone number and they confiscated the dog, which is still missing.

Madeline Bernstein, president with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says this sort of thing is more common than you might think.

"It happens all the time," says Bernstein. "There's a report of somebody impersonating an animal control officer. People have fake ID's. They get fake uniforms. It's easy."

The LAPD says people should ask for a badge and I.D. if anyone in uniform shows up at your door.
According to the American Kennel Club, pet theft has gone up by a staggering amount nationally with 637 cases reported in 2014 versus only 67 in 2008 an increase of 900 percent.

Bernstein says pet thieves have a variety of motives.

"It can be anything," says Bernstein. "It can be somebody stealing the dog and asking for a ransom. It could be somebody who is mad at the dog 'cause the dog was barking too much. It could be somebody who feels that they could take better care of the dog. There are any number of reasons why people will do something like this."

The Kennel Club says the most commonly stolen types of dogs in 2014 were pit bulls, Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, bulldogs, Pomeranian and shih tzus.

Suzanne Potter/Judy Steffes, Public News Service - CA