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10 Dognapping & Dog Theft Statistics to Know in 2024

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

Dognapping & Dog Theft Statistics

10 Dognapping & Dog Theft Statistics to Know in 2024

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Dogs mean everything to their families, and it’s difficult to fathom how anyone could steal your best friend. Dognapping is a horrendous crime, but unfortunately, it’s not a rare occurrence. Punishments for pet theft do not deter criminals because most laws consider dogs and cats as property rather than sentient beings. Dog owners have reported their pets being stolen from their backyards, during walks, and even when the animals are secured indoors.

Although dog thefts are on the rise, and the statistics seem alarming, the data highlights the severity of the problem and helps pet parents protect their beloved canines.


The 10 Dognapping & Dog Theft Statistics

  1. Two million dogs are stolen every year in the United States.
  2. One-third of all dogs and cats in the United States go missing every year.
  3. More than 80% of missing pets are never found.
  4. Between 9.4 to 9.6 million pets are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year.
  5. The threat of pet theft affects 70% of all U.S. homes.
  6. As of 2022, 65.1 million U.S. homes have dogs as pets.
  7. Millennials make up 33% of the pet owners in the U.S.
  8. Over 10 million dogs and cats go missing every year.
  9. Less than 20% of missing pets are recovered.
  10. In 2020, one in five Americans adopted a pet during the pandemic.
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Dog Theft Statistics in the United States

1. Two million dogs are stolen every year in the United States.


Criminals steal dogs for various reasons, but most are motivated by greed. Rare breeds and highly valued pups can be sold to unreputable dealers, medical testing centers, and ordinary citizens unaware of the dog’s origin. Although illegal dog-fighting clubs sometimes search for large breeds for their inhumane contests, they also steal smaller dogs to serve as target practice for their champion fighters. Law enforcement agencies and animal rights organizations have warned the public about the sharp increase in dog theft in recent years and urged owners to avoid leaving their pets alone in the car or tied to a chain in the yard.

2. One-third of all dogs and cats in the United States go missing.


Although the missing pet statistics combine the number of animals stolen and lost, the numbers are no less shocking. When they head out alone, missing pets face multiple threats, including attacks from predators, speeding automobiles, poisons intended for rodents, wildlife traps, and immoral criminals looking for a quick profit. Pet parents who have their pets fixed and keep them in their homes are less likely to experience an escape or theft.

3. More than 80% of missing pets are never found.


Law enforcement agencies and pet detective firms have helped owners reunite with their pets, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle when you examine their success rates. If only 20% of the pets missing every year are returned, pet thieves have a large pool of victims they can exploit. When an animal goes missing, owners can distribute flyers, contact the police, and send social media alerts, but the odds are against them. Returning a stolen computer or television to the rightful owner is more likely than locating a lost or stolen dog.

4. Between 9.4 to 9.6 million pets are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year.


When lost dogs and cats are not adopted quickly enough, they’re killed to make room for the new arrivals. Peeva studied 3500 U.S. shelters, but only 1000 responded to their surveys. However, they estimated that over 15 million animals enter shelters every year, and 64% of them are euthanized. The ASPCA reports that the numbers are much lower, but some have questioned the accuracy of ASPCA’s findings and speculated that the organization had downplayed the lost pet crisis. Until every shelter provides researchers with consistent lost pet reports, the total number of adopted and euthanized animals may never be known.

dog theft
Image By: cunaplus, Shutterstock

5. The threat of pet theft affects 70% of all U.S. homes.


Like Australia and the United Kingdom, the United States is a nation of pet lovers. Dogs are the top pets, and Americans spend billions every year on pet food, vet services, and other pet-related products and services. Criminals understand how valuable dogs are to their owners, and they go to extreme lengths to capture the animals when they’re most vulnerable.

6. As of 2022, 65.1 million homes have dogs as pets.


Over half of the U.S. population has a dog or cat, and the U.S. has a larger population of dogs than any other country. Americans are so fond of their canines that one-third of dog owners buy presents for their pets on special occasions. Although pet parents love their dogs, the United States still considers dogs property rather than sentient beings. France and the United Kingdom now enforce strict penalties, including jail sentences, for dog theft, but U.S. criminals only receive light civil penalties for stealing dogs.

7. Millennials make up 33% of the pet owners in the U.S.


Millennials own more pets than other generations, but Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are not far behind. Few Americans buy insurance for their pets, but Millennials are more likely to have pet policies than other generations. Younger generations in the United States and around the world seem more concerned with animal rights and pet crimes than older Americans. Their opinions have helped sway public opinion about the value of domesticated animals. Since they spend more on pet care and products than other groups, their views have impacted the pet industry. Premium pet food and high-quality pet supplies were harder to find in the late 20th century, but today’s pet industry is booming with nutritious meals, expensive toys, and high-tech equipment.

8. Over 10 million dogs and cats go missing every year.


Although many lost pets are not stolen, the missing pet statistics are troubling for a nation that spends billions on pets. The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports microchipping and recommends using ID tags to increase the odds of locating lost animals. Other preventative measures include having pets fixed, securing properties with fences and security devices, and keeping pets inside instead of tethering them outdoors.

9. Less than 20% of missing pets are recovered.


Pet detectives, online sleuths, and law enforcement officials have reunited heartbroken families with their lost pets. However, the odds are not in their favor for increasing their success rates. Although pet parents have used social media platforms and online forums to locate animals, criminals have set up fake accounts and websites to exploit and profit from desperate owners.

10. In 2020, one in five Americans adopted a pet during the pandemic.


Travel restrictions, lockdowns, and fear of illness kept many Americans confined to their homes. Adopting a pet helped many uneasy people cope with the isolation and terror felt by most of the world’s citizens. Dog and cat adoptions increased significantly in 2020, but fraudulent adoption agents also proliferated. Criminals used the pandemic restrictions to their advantage, and they received advance payments for pet sales by showing customers fake pictures or videos of animals supposedly up for adoption. Some thieves even convinced customers to send additional payments to transport their pets through quarantine zones.


Frequently Asked Questions About Dognapping

Examining the dognapping statistics over the last 2 years can make you question humanity’s morality, but the shocking numbers may convince owners to take further precautions to protect their pets. Here are some additional facts about dog thefts and tips for keeping your canine safe from criminals.

Which Breeds Are Stolen the Most in the United States?

Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and other high-priced purebreds are targeted more by criminals than mixed breeds. AKC Reunite’s CEO recently mentioned that smaller dogs like Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas were also popular dogs for thieves because of their compact size.


Which Dogs Are Most Popular in the United States?

Although the Yorkshire Terrier tops the list for dog thieves, the Labrador Retriever was the favorite in the United States for 30 years until the French Bulldog took the top spot in 2022. The Norwegian Lundehund grabbed the 198th spot as the most unpopular canine. AKC published its list of the country’s most popular dogs of 2022 in April 2023. Here are the breeds that made the top 20:

  • French Bulldog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle
  • Bulldog
  • Rottweiler
  • Beagle
  • Dachshund
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Boxer
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Cane Corso
  • Great Dane
  • Shih Tzu


Labrador retrievers in nature
Image By: McCann Michelle, Shutterstock

Which U.S. States prohibit animal tethering?

Tethered dogs are easy targets for dognappers; they cannot run away when thieves enter their yards. Keeping an animal chained can also be emotionally and physically harmful to canines, and luckily, some states have responded to the public’s calls for stricter enforcement. The length of time a dog is tethered, and the type of tethers allowed varies by region, but only 23 states and Washington D.C. have laws limiting the practice. As of 2023, the states that fine offenders for tethering animals include:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • California
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • Maine
  • Hawaii
  • District of Columbia

Although all 50 states have animal cruelty laws, the regions that experience the harshest winter weather, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, and Minnesota, do not penalize owners for keeping their pets chained up in subzero temperatures.


How Can You Prevent Dognapping?

The increase in dog thefts since 2019 is disheartening, but you can reduce the likelihood of your pet being stolen by implementing these procedures:

  • Take your pet to the vet to get it fixed. Spayed and neutered dogs are less likely to escape their homes, and they’re not as valuable to thieves because they cannot be sold to breeders.
  • Install security cameras on your property. Most dogs are stolen outside of the home, but some owners have had their pets stolen indoors while sleeping.
  • Never keep your dog alone in the car. Criminals can easily smash car windows and steal your pet while you’re busy shopping.
  • Avoid keeping your dog tethered in the yard.
  • Install a microchip. Microchips will not deter theft, but they’re invaluable to law enforcement officers investigating pet thefts and attempting to return stolen dogs to their owners.
veterinarian microchipping beagle dog with syringe
Image By: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Which countries consider pets as sentient beings rather than things?

In December 2021, Spain became the fourth country to alter its civil code to identify pets as sentient beings rather than things. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland were the first countries to follow the 2009 Lisbon Treaty that established pets as intelligent beings, but other pet-loving nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have not elevated animals to a status above property.




Thieves make significant profits when they steal dogs, and they’re unlikely to cease their criminal activities if the prosecution rates remain low. You can reduce the likelihood of dog theft by keeping your dog indoors and securing your property, but the possibility of losing your pet will exist unless governing bodies increase penalties for dognapping and reclassify dogs as sentient beings.

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Featured Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock

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