Oct. 29, 2010— -- A young man watches as an unsuspecting dog owner ties up her beautiful dog outside a cafe and ducks inside. He immediately walks up and exclaims to people nearby that it's his long lost pup. Is he telling the truth or is he trying to steal the dog?
From dachshunds to Great Danes, man's best friend is one of the most popular pets around, with more than 77 million dog owners in the United States alone.
Sadly, dogs' enormous popularity, and sometimes their purebred price tags, have led to an increase in thefts. According to the American Kennel Club, the number of dog thefts across the country jumped nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2009.
So what would you do if you suspected someone was trying to steal another person's beloved canine companion? Would you intervene?
ABC's "What Would You Do?" set up an ethical dilemma to test the public's willingness to protect the safety of a stranger's pet. We set up our hidden cameras at the Hoboken Gourmet Company, a cafe in Hoboken, N.J., to see how unsuspecting bystanders would react to someone trying to steal a dog.
Walking her adorable dog Kaiya to the cafe, our dog owner, actress Traci Hovel, first approached Leyla and Scott Jaworski, a couple enjoying breakfast outside with their own dog, Tank. When Hovel asked them if they could watch Kaiya while she stepped inside the cafe to order coffee, they happily agreed.
But soon after she went inside, the couple was approached by another actor, an attractive African-American man named Hassan Goding, who told them he wanted to show his fictional girlfriend what a beautiful dog Kaiya was and tried to pry her away from the Jaworskis.
"Would you mind if I just took her around the corner real quick to show my girlfriend?" Goding asked the couple.
Leyla Jaworski instantly came to the dog's defense, even though she hadn't met Kaiya until today.
"No, I'm not going to let you take her," she told him.
Goding pressed on, undeterred, "No, seriously, it will only take a second."
"No, never! Not in a million years!" she said.
Hassan took matters in his own hands and attempted to untie the leash that Hovel had tied to the cafe's railing.
Bystander Steps In as Dog Thief Tries to Steal Kaiya
Again, Jaworski tried to stop him. "Watch yourself!" she said, and without hesitating, she scooped up Kaiya and held her close. Goding made one final attempt to try his luck at getting the dog.
"How about if I give you a couple of dollars?" he asked her.
"Are you out of your mind? Honestly, I'm about to call the police!" Jaworski exclaimed.
At that point, ABC News' John Quinones led our camera crew toward the Jaworskis to let them in our scenario.
Leyla, an avowed dog lover, told Quinones that she thought Hassan was "too handsome to be some weirdo," but that she couldn't let someone take a dog that may be a beloved member of someone's family.
She also had some choice words for her husband, Scott, who had mostly sat in amused silence as Hassan and Leyla negotiated Kaiya's safety.
"Why didn't you stand up for me?" Leyla asked him in exasperation.
When Quinones echoed her query, Jaworski sheepishly explained his actions.
"She stands up for herself pretty well, so I just thought I'd take a backseat," he said.
While the story about the fictional girlfriend around the corner didn't seem to pan out, we set our actors back out again with a new, more drastic scenario. This time, Goding would see if he could walk off with Kaiya, claiming ownership.
Hovel approached the cafe with Kaiya again, and this time she asked unsuspecting Anthony Pini to watch her dog while she stepped inside. He said was happy to do so, and went back to finishing his lunch when Hassan made his move.
"Muffin! I lost this dog months ago!" Hassan explained to Pini.
Pini replied, "You lost him?"
"Yeah, this is my dog." Goding then grabbed Kaiya and untied her leash from the railing.
"Whoa, hey, the lady just put him there!" Pini said as he tried to stop him from stealing the dog.
"What? This is my dog," Goding protested.
But Pini wasn't buying his story, "No, it's not. The lady's inside, go talk to her. Put him back on the leash!"
Goding kept pressing, "You know what, I'm just going to take her for a walk."
Pini quickly shot back and protected Kaiya, "No, you're not going to do anything. I'll call the cops and have you arrested!"
Would You Stop a Dog Thief?
Quickly, Quinones with camera crew in tow made his entrance once again and reassured Pini that Goding was an actor and he had been set up.
While Goding proved unsuccessful in his first two attempts at dognapping, would the situation change if we used a different actor to play a dog thief, such as an unattractive white man or a beautiful blond woman?