OLD BRIDGE — Associated Humane Societies/Popcorn Park is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of a German Shepherd/Labrador Retriever mix that might have been stolen from her family’s own Old Bridge backyard.
Huggle, a very shy large light-brown mixed breed, was last seen in her yard in the Cliffwood Beach section on Oct. 24. Since then, the family has unsuccessfully searched throughout the region for their dog that is microchipped and was wearing a pink collar.
Huggle could be one of a growing number of dogs whose owners think are lost, but were probably stolen. There is no central agency that keeps these records; however it’s estimated that more than 12,000 dogs, mixed breeds and purebreds, are stolen in New Jersey and more than 2 million nationwide, each year.
“It’s unthinkable, the number of dogs – particularly purebreds — that are stolen from their families everyday. Most people think their pets simply ran out of their yards and got lost, but more often than not, they were taken in plain sight,” said Roseann Trezza, Executive Director, AHS/Popcorn Park.
“We will do everything in our power to reunite Huggle with her family, including offering the reward. But, events like this should serve as a warning for all pet owners to stay alert and guard their pets, just as they guard us,” Trezza said.
Dog thieves seem to have become more daring, particularly with the increased use of invisible fencing. Even though the dog will stay in the yard, there is no visible deterrent to stop a thief. Even so, is not uncommon for someone to open a gate or jump a fence to enter a yard and take a dog.
To keep pets safe from theft, Associated Humane Societies offers these tips:
- Don’t leave home with your dog in the backyard. Dogs left outside unattended are a perfect target, especially if the dog is visible from the street.
- Invisible fencing will not protect your dog from theft. Underground and radio-controlled fencing is great for keeping your trained dog inside the confines of your property, but it does nothing to keep intruders away. Not only does this make your dog even more susceptible to theft, but it’s also inviting for stray dogs and other wild animals that are curious about your pet.
- Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, even if you’ve locked the doors. The dangers that can arise by leaving your pet in a vehicle, even for a minute or two, are many. Anyone can break into your vehicle and steal your pet, or just open the door and let the pet run free. What’s more, pets left in vehicles are subject to super hot or cold conditions that can harm or even kill them.
- Always keep your pet on a leash.
- Never tie your pet’s leash outside a building. Many dogs are stolen outside shops.
- Get your pet microchipped. Collars and tags can be removed, but a microchip – only about the size of a piece of rice – contains all identifying information about your pet, and is inserted under the dog’s skin, just near his neck and shoulder bones. Pets have been recovered when dogs have been scanned for microchips. The information on the chip is only obtainable and useful if you remember to register with the microchip agency.
- If you think your dog has been stolen, immediately notify the police and stay in contact with your nearest animal shelters. Post “lost” signs with photos of your pet throughout your area. Go on the internet and check rescue groups, lost/found organizations, animal shelters and animal control agencies throughout the area. Once an animal is stolen, the chances of it staying localized are slim. If you have a purebred dog, there are usually breed rescue groups throughout the nation that maintain a lost/found list. Contact them.
- If your pet is lost or stolen, be wary of people who might call or contact you and say they need cash to return the dog as either traveling costs or ransom. Immediately contact the police.
- If you witness a stranger putting a neighbor’s dog in a car or van, be sure to obtain the license plate number of the vehicle and contact the owners or police.
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