Pet Parents, Beware of People out to Steal Your Fur-Kid

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pet Parents, Beware of People out to Steal Your Fur-Kid

It’s not normally advisable to get a pet and then try to rehome it, pets should be for life, but if you do find yourself in a situation of having to find a home for your pet, it is never a good idea to list the pet on Craig’s List, in the newspaper, or anywhere else as “free to good home.”

Nor is it a good idea to leave your pets outside unattended.

This story on is a good illustration. Susan and Floyd Martin pled guilty in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., for illegally selling hundreds of dogs to medical research facilities.

Between 2005 and 2010, the Martins made money as "random source dealers," selling hundreds of illegally obtained dogs to high profile biomedical research facilities such as Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities.

This practice of selling the dogs for medical research is legal, according to the Animal Welfare Act, as long as the “random source dealers” sell fewer than 25 dogs to research facilities in any given year, and as long as they have been legally obtained.

Where did the Martins obtain their dogs? They bought them from people known as “bunchers”; people who pick up dogs that are wandering the streets, steal them from backyards, and yes, even get them by pretending to be loving people looking for a pet when they call or go to a home that has a "free to good home" ad posted.

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966 as a result of the case of Pepper, a Dalmatian that was stolen from her yard and sold to an animal research facility in New York. Pepper died in an experiment before her owners could locate her.

The good news is that there aren’t many of these “random source dealers” left, and many research labs have quit purchasing animals in this manner. They instead buy from people who breed dogs specifically to sell to research labs (a topic for another story).

There is also another risk to leaving your dog unattended or putting it in an ad “free to good home,” and that is that criminals involved in dog fighting rings will take pets and use them as bait to make their fighting dogs more vicious.

Michael Vick supposedly even did this; stealing family pets from relatives and friends for this purpose.

Earlier this week, our local paper wrote about a white van that has been seen in the vicinity during some instances when pets have gone missing in our town.

Last week, a local woman who knows I work with rescues contacted me and said they had gotten in over their heads taking in a pit bull puppy. She said due to some changes in their family circumstances and finances, they could no longer keep him and she was going to list him on Craig’s List.

I talked her out of it and asked her to give me some time to find him a home or get him into a safe rescue.

It took me a week, but I found Rocco the pitbull puppy a new life. He is safe from the bunchers and the fighters. But not every dog is safe until we can spread the word to owners to not place their dogs “free to good home.”

If you must find a home for your pet, charge a little. Even $25 is enough to cut into a buncher or fighter’s profits enough to make them move on. If someone really is in love with your pet, they’ll be willing to pay a little fee.


Editor’s Note: Image by Flickr user Brett McBain.


Have you ever heard of people stealing pets?