What to Do if Someone Won’t Give Your Pet Back

What you should do if someone won’t give your pet back is the following:

  • File a police report.
  • Browse areas where your pet was last seen.
  • Post flyers outside and at least one report online.
  • Call locations that work with animals.
  • Contact the media.
  • Check your newspaper and online classified ads for your pet.
  • Be careful in approaching a person who may have your pet.


What You Should Do If Someone Won’t Give Your Pet Back

Many people don’t think very much about what to do if someone won’t give their pet back. Most pet owners likely just believe that it could never happen to them. However, the unfortunate reality is that this does happen, and it can create a very difficult situation.

If someone has your dog or other pet, you may feel like you shouldn’t have to take legal action to get them back. After all, this animal does belong in your home.

However, the reality is that sometimes, you will have to jump through some hoops just to get back the animal that is rightfully yours.


What You Should Do If Someone Won’t Return Your Pet

There are many situations in which your pet would end up in someone else’s home. They could have wandered off and been picked up by these individuals, or you could have left your pet with a friend who now wants to keep him.

The good news is that you do have some recourse in these situations.

In many of these cases, your pet will be considered stolen. The following are some of the things that you should do in order to get your stolen pet back:

  • File a police report immediately with the police. This could be helpful both for identification purposes and as a piece of evidence in court if the person who stole your pet is on trial.
    • In some cases, the authorities might not be too enthusiastic about putting the report together. Remind them that your pet is considered property under the law, and that the theft is either a misdemeanor or a felony. They are required to take action and file your complaint.
  • Explore the area where your pet was last seen. Ask around to see if anyone saw what happened with your pet, or who might have taken him.
  • Post a “Lost Pet” report online. Don’t say anything about the pet having been stolen. If the thief, or even an honest person who may have taken your pet in, sees this, they might be hesitant to come forward with your pet. Avoid using the phrase “no questions asked.”
  • Post flyers in visible locations in the area. This should happen in the area where you believe that your pet was taken, and include the fact that you are offering a reward. It’s probably best not to specify the exact amount. Keep in mind that some people steal pets in order to get a reward. You’ll be better able to size them up when you see them.
  • Call the veterinary offices, animal shelters, and grooming salons in your area and surrounding areas.  Sometimes, pet thieves won’t want to follow through with keeping the animal and will dump them off in one of these places.
  • Get in touch with the media. This can include local radio, newspapers, and even television. Include a photo of your pet, and give them details that are likely to make an interesting story that they will want to highlight.
  • If someone gets back to you saying that they have your pet, make sure to meet in public rather than in a remote area, ideally with witnesses.
  • If you see your pet with someone, you can approach them neutrally if it seems like a safe situation. If it doesn’t, immediately call the police with your case number. You can try to follow the person without being too obvious. If you see the pet in someone’s yard, call the police rather than trying to recover him yourself.
  • Don’t give anyone any money until you actually have your pet back. If somebody calls you and tells you that they have your pet but need money before they send him to you, don’t send the money. It is likely a scam.
  • Check your local newspaper and online classified ads, such as Craigslist. A lot of the time, when pets are stolen and sold, the thief will advertise them.

Even though your pet is a domestic animal, the law will see them as your property. The person who has been taking care of your pet (whether he or she stole the animal or is simply a Good Samaritan) does not have any rights to keep your pet. However, they can make a claim for any costs that they incurred while keeping the animal, such as costs for food and damage.

If this individual refuses to give the animal back to you, you can make a legal claim to get your pet back.


What You Should Do to Prevent Your Pet from Getting Lost

As with any other type of situation, prevention is the best solution. Although you don’t always have control over everything that happens, it is definitely best to avoid getting into a situation where you have to fight to get your pet back from another person.

The following are some things that you should make sure to do on a regular basis:

  • Don’t ever leave your pet without supervision when they are outside, even if he is in a fenced yard. At the very least, make sure that you keep an eye on him from inside the house, especially if people can see and access the fenced-in area from the street.
  • Don’t tie up your animal or leave him in a car when you are going into a store or restaurant, even for just a few minutes.
  • Avoid letting your animals roam around outside. If you are walking your dog, make sure to keep them on a leash. If you have a cat, try to keep them as an indoor cat.
  • Make sure that all of your pets are spayed and neutered. This way, they’ll be less likely to run off on their own. People will also be less likely to steal them, as some people steal dogs in order to breed them.
  • Don’t go around telling people how much you paid for your pet. If people know that your pet was expensive, they are going to be more tempted to steal him.
  • Make sure that your pet has all the necessary identification. They should have a collar with tags, so that people who get close to them can see their name and your contact information. If possible, your pet should also be microchipped.
  • Keep at least one current photo of your pet. If they end up in someone else’s house, the other person may need proof that this is indeed your pet to release him back into your care.


Reasons Why People Steal Pets

There are many reasons why people might steal pets. Usually, when this happens, the thief wants to get something out of it. The following are some of the reasons:

  • To get a reward for returning the animal.
  • To sell the pet to a puppy mill or breeder, if the animal is not spayed or neutered.
  • To “flip” a purebred dog, or sell him to an unknowing person for a handsome profit.
  • To enter a dog into a dog fighting ring. This is more common with dogs that have reputations as fighters, such as boxers, Boston Terriers, German Shepherds, and pit bulls.
  • To sell the animal to a lab. The good news is that a law went into effect in 2016 that prohibited the purchase of “randomly collected” animals by laboratories.
  • To get revenge on the dog’s owner. An angry neighbor, acquaintance, or family member can steal the pet and either keep him or dump him somewhere.
  • To have a pet. Some people might see your pet and like him. Instead of making an effort to find the owner, they might decide to keep him for themselves.

Of course, it is never okay to steal someone else’s pet. Whatever the motive of the person who has found the dog, they are taking a valued family member away from another household, usually for a selfish purpose.

However, you can’t control their behavior; all you can do is everything you can to protect your pet.


What You Should Do to Avoid Becoming a Pet Thief

Another thing that may not have occurred to you is that you don’t want to unwittingly become a pet thief yourself.

If you purchase a purebred pet, make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and that the person who sold you the animal has a verifiable identity. Otherwise, you can end up thinking that you are legally purchasing an animal that is, in fact, stolen.

Also, if you end up taking in a seemingly stray animal, make an effort to find out whether or not the animal has an owner. Look at all of the aforementioned resources to make sure that there are no lost dogs in your area, contact the police, and check for a microchip.

Even if the animal doesn’t have visible identification or a collar, they could still have a family who is worried sick about them.


If Your Pet Is Gone, He’s Not Necessarily Gone for Good…

When your pet is missing, this can be one of the most terrifying things you can experience. They really can become a valued part of your family, which is why it is so difficult to face the prospect of losing them. However, the good news is that if your pet is gone, you do have options to try to get him back.

If you know where your pet is and can prove they are yours, you will have a much easier time getting them back than if you have no proof at all. This is why it is important to make sure that you have recent photos of your pet, as well as any documentation that shows that the animal is yours.

Of course, the best thing to do is to make sure that your animal doesn’t get lost in the first place. Even though it’s not possible to guarantee that this happens, you can maximize the chances by taking all of the precautions we mentioned earlier.

Your pet probably means the world to you, so it’s a good idea to be proactive in making sure that nothing bad happens.


Writer: Nilani Thiyagarajah

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