Dogs have been stolen from pet stores, from breeders and from right under their owners' noses at home. Some of the brazen thefts have even been caught on tape.
John Husky and Dina Martinez of Venice, Calif., felt the effects of this growing trend firsthand.
The couple were devastated when their 4-month-old dog, Mr. James Brown, went missing.
"We were really concerned this wasn't going to end well," Husky said.
The pair decided to hire a detective – Annalisa Berns of the California-based pet search company Pet Search and Rescue – to recover their beloved pet. Berns brought in a search dog, which followed Mr. James Brown's scent to the fence, after which the trail vanished.
This story had a happy ending. A reward was offered and the dog was returned, but not every case ends so well.
"Most people, over 80, 90 percent, they can get their pets back on their own if they know what to do, they don't need the search dogs," Berns said. "The biggest prevention tip is a collar and tags, hands down it's the easiest, simplest, most inexpensive thing that you can do and really have that increase your chances of getting your dog back safe."
The American Kennel Club also recommends that dog owners have their pets fitted with microchip. It's a simple procedure in which a tiny chip programmed with an ID number is embedded just below the animal's skin. The ID number corresponds to a database containing pet owners' contact information.
Most vets and shelters have equipment to scan a dog for microchips.