Pet stealing is on the rise in mid-Missouri

Disturbing new trend, "pet flipping," now reported in Missouri

POSTED: 05:21 PM CST Jan 14, 2014    UPDATED: 06:34 PM CST Jan 14, 2014 
Lost pets in Columbia
COLUMBIA, Mo. -

A crime on the rise in mid-Missouri is called "pet flipping."

It is not a term most people have heard of, but it is a national trend that is now being reported in Missouri.

"Pet flipping" is when someone steals an animal, and then turns around and sells it for a profit.

The number of dogs across the country reported stolen to the American Kennel Club pet theft database has increased by nearly 600 percent from 2008 to 2012.

At least one pet is reported lost or stolen to the Central Missouri Humane Society each day according to Colin LaVaute, who is the shelter coordinator at CMHS in Columbia.

A scenario of puppies being stolen has been depicted in Hollywood since the 60s with "101 Dalmatians."

That scenario is now becoming a reality for pet owners across the U.S.: dogs are being stolen from people's cars, parks and yards.

"I usually let her out and then go put the kids to bed, so I was gone maybe 10 minutes at the most," said Natasha Leonard, whose dog went missing from her home last week.

In the short time that Leonard's puppy was outside on her lease, she disappeared.

"Her leash was there but she was gone. I know someone took her," said Leonard.

She is the only pet owner that has had this happen to her recently.

Lost and Found websites are filled with postings. The Internet is a helpful tool in finding your lost dog, but for "pet flipping" criminals, it is their source of selling your stolen pet.

Officials say criminals can make up to $1,000 per dog.

"Craigslist is definitely a hot bed of activity for a lot of pet resources," said LaVaute.

However, while selling pets on Craigslist is prohibited, many people get around that rule. If your pet goes missing, that website is the number one place to find it being sold by those criminals.

Purebreds like Leonard's pit bull puppy are targets for these criminals.

"If they are going to steal a pet they'd want some purebred, younger-looking dog I'd imagine," says LaVaute.

To keep this from happening to your pet, owners can get their animals microchipped.

It is also important to make sure they have a collar and their tags are up to date.

And if your pet does go missing, LaVaute told ABC 17 News it is important to get lost signs up in your neighborhood right away.