Three long aisles at Puppy Paradise near Brooklyn College lead the customer past leashes and puppy toys to the grooming, and play areas in the back. Behind a closed door that says Do Not Enter, about 20 cages filled with romping puppies greet potential buyers – as well as entice thieves.
Last Friday, a seven-week-old Yorkie was stolen from the shop and the puppy and whoever stole it are still at large.
“The police are on it,” said Joseph Sever, security consultant for the store. He said the puppy was nabbed at around 4:07 in the afternoon—and the theft was caught on security cameras.
The puppy was taken at an opportune moment when Sever wasn’t there, and the other assistants were helping customers and the door, while closed, was unlocked.
This isn’t the store’s first case of a stolen pup. According to Puppy Paradise owner David Dietz, dogs have been stolen about four times in last 30 years of the store’s existence. That doesn’t seem like much, but guard your puppies.
This is just one of a slew of increasing puppy thefts, according to the American Kennel Club. The club estimates that dog theft is up 32 percent this year nationwide. In fact, the group notes that stolen pet reports have risen from 150 to 224 in the past year, having climbed steadily since 2009. The kennel club says that a bad economy may be to blame.
Detective Nell, Information Officer for the NYPD, said that pet thefts are not tracked separately, because they are considered property thefts, either larceny or grand larceny, depending on the value of the critter.
But the executive director of the Humane Society, Sandra DeFeo, reports that Queens and Brooklyn have a higher rate of thefts than Manhattan.
“Brooklyn and Staten Island are more vulnerable,” DeFeo said. “Mainly because many residents in these boroughs are more likely to have backyards than in Manhattan.”
Pet stores and animal advocates alike are encouraging pet owners to take precautions against pet napping by micro-chipping. Overall, a combination of microchipping, the insertion of a small chip that serves as an electronic ID tag into the shoulder muscles of the animal, putting registration tags on collars, and supervision are key to preventing pet theft.
“We try to educate people,” said DeFeo. “People lose animals to theft often because of negligence.” She added that if a theft happens, “We counsel people to get the word out, to put up flyers and to mention if animal needs medical attention or special meds.”
DeFeo says that most animals the Humane Society receives are not microchipped, but the organization does microchip its animala and include the cost in the adoption fee, which is around $125 for cats, $250 for dogs. The Humane Society also offers low-cost microchip procedures for people who already have pets. While other vets charge as much as $85 just for the microchip operation on dogs and cats, the Humane Society charges only $35 for both the microchip and a check-up.
To find out more on microchipping services and fees, click here.
However, Puppy Paradise assistant Merri Weinstein warned that despite the fact that all the animals they sell at the Brooklyn shop are microchipped, they can still get lost or stolen. The reason: the microchip is not a GPS device that lets owner locate their pets if they are lost or escape the house
To track animals, many pet owners in Brooklyn use online services like FIDO, a lost and found dog and adoption service in Prospect Heights, which emails over 700 members for free, whenever a dog is lost in the neighborhood, as well as puts up posters.
To read about how Brooklyn pet owners are increasingly spending more on grooming their pets, click here.
Aside from microchipping, both the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urge pet owners to prevent theft by not tying up their animals outside and making sure they have ID collars.
The U.S. Humane Society attributes dog thefts to dog fighting rings, where people wage bets of $10,000 to $50,000 to see which dogs wins in a fight to the death.
Puppy Paradise sells a collection of usually smaller dog breeds, such as Yorkies Shi-Tzus, and Pomeranians. Not the kind that are typically nabbed for fighting rings. However, Sever said that Yorkies, known for their gentle temperaments, are valued at $1,500 each, and for this reason, are a preferred breed for dog nappers.
“While the police view dogs as “property” theft it’s hard to get them excited about helping you,” said Bob Ipcar of FIDO’s Lost and Found Dog and Adoption services in Prospect Heights.
To find out more about FIDO’s services and to sign up for emails, click here.
Since the recent theft, the owners of the puppy store on Flatbush Avenue are taking measures to upgrade security and to raise awareness about how stealing puppies endangers the puppies’ lives. Their main concern is for the puppy, which still had to be bottle fed with vitamin water.
Rather than putting up posters, the store has put out a call to the New York 1 and other media that covered the story to whoever has the puppy to take good care of it.
“We have to protect the safety of our animals,” said Weinstein, store assistant. “We are afraid the puppy has passed away. Even if a person who purchased the stolen puppy called, we know they are not guilty of a crime for buying the dog. We just want to know the Yorkie is OK and being cared for properly.”