My Dog Was Stolen—How to Get Your Dog Back

I was 15 years old when my parents allowed me to have another dog in my life. Frisco was only 3 months old and was the coolest little thing. I was dogless for a few years, so one can imagine the excitement I felt when Frisco came into my life.

Everyone in the neighborhood fell in love with him. When I’d take him out for walks, people would randomly ask me if I would sell Frisco. I could never tell if they were joking, so I would just play along. “Frisco, my mutt-dog you can find at any shelter? Give me $1,000,000 and he’s yours,” I joked.

All the younger kids would come knocking at my door, everyday, begging to play with Frisco. The whole neighborhood knew who I was and never hesitated to acknowledge Frisco as the neighborhood dog. He was everywhere I was.

“Is he a Pit Bull? Wait, he kind of also looks like a Boxer. What is he?” — “He’s a dog. That’s all that matters,” I would tell them.

Certain individuals that lived in my neighborhood would also tell me if I ever became interested in breeding or fighting Frisco to let them know. It was always the same bunch, too. This part of owning a dog was new to me. No one had made me feel so uneasy owning a dog. Around this time is when I also realized I lived in a community where Pit Bulls were seen as status symbols.

One regular Sunday, I left Frisco alone in the backyard, as always, while we attended mass. Our yard was completely gated. There was nothing easy about getting into our yard unless you deliberately made the attempt (like me forgetting my house key).

I had the day planned after church. I was going to take Frisco to the park for some much needed training. But as we made our way back home and up our driveway, I knew he was gone.

Someone, or something, knocked our gate over. Frisco was a strong little pup, but still, there was absolutely no way my skin-and-bone puppy could have done that. Or could he?

Desperately calling his name, I made sure he wasn’t asleep, or possibly ill, laying somewhere where I couldn’t see him. Once I determined he wasn’t on the premise, I started looking for clues.

His collar miraculously laid on his bed, where he was probably asleep when he was snatched.

At this point, I was mad at everyone in my neighborhood. We’re all so good at keeping a look out! How could someone let this happen? I had so much assurance in my people! They failed me.

It was Sunday, the animal shelter was closed, so I knew if Frisco was indeed loose roaming the streets, it would be a car or a new family that gets him.

I quickly got on my skateboard while my parents drove around the neighborhood looking for Frisco. I went door to door asking everyone if they’ve seen anything. Thirty minutes and zero leads later, I knew I had to step it up because it would only be a matter of time before someone finds my puppy.

10 minutes later, I had a couple hundred posters (computers and Photoshop do wonders) and passed them to all my friends with skateboards. I told them to staple them to every single tree. We managed to cover 3 square miles before sundown.

After an hour of doing that, me and my friend (friend didn’t live on my street) finished in front of a house that gave me an eery feeling. I had a few run-ins with these people in the past about my dog (stuff I mentioned earlier). I told my friend, “My gut is telling me they’ve got Frisco,” and without hesitation my friend runs up to their door and staples a lost dog poster to their wooden door… pop, pop. Two good staples.

My friend was a lot braver than I was as kids. However, he also didn’t live on my street. He didn’t understand that I live here and I would have to deal with the repercussions of stapling a piece of paper to these people’s door–people the whole neighborhood wanted nothing to do with. I ran and hid in my house, hoping for a call to come in… from anyone.

Not even 10 minutes passed when a lady I’ve never seen before knocks on the door. She was holding Frisco like a baby. She said my dog was in “her backyard.” She pointed to the house with the wooden door that was decorated with two industrial staples. She said she walked out to her backyard and there he was, sleeping. Her house didn’t have any fencing on the property, so I kind of believed her.

I didn’t want to speculate because I was dealing with people that can cause a lot of harm to a family, so I thanked her and snatched my boy back from her hands. Not once did she ask me why the poster had been stapled to the door. I was kind of hoping she didn’t because I didn’t have a good enough explanation; other than the fact I felt “you” stole my dog and you need to know I know.

Frisco was born under a friend’s house and was covered in fleas, but with several medicated bathes he was good as new.

I knew she knew because no one gets away with stapling a poster to a wooden door. So I guess I kind of thank my friend. This was a way of confronting someone, and not cause too much of a physical confrontation. Though it could have easily gone that way, I guess they felt it wasn’t worth opening a can of worms for a mutt.

I tried to live the next few days telling myself Frisco broke out on his own, but I couldn’t bring myself to it. I knew for a fact he was stolen from our yard. It made me angry. I was mad at the world. I was mad that we had to live on the same street with these thugs. I wanted to get even. I was going psychotic basically.

I was the luckiest dog owner in the world that day. To have been dealt the experience with no serious loss, makes me very lucky. The experience turned me into a better dog owner. My dogs’ safety and well-being is never overlooked till this very day. I know how people are. We all live life thinking we’re immune to so many things. The things we hear happening on the news can never happen to us. But we all learn to appreciate life and the things in it a little more when it comes around to bite us. I can’t tell you how horrible I felt thinking I was never going to see my dog again. The world was going to owe me that day.

I later found out through the grapevine, that backyard where Frisco magically decided to nap at, was indeed the yard he was suppose to die at. Their plans were to use him as a bait dog.

Things You Should Never Do

  • Never confront the person who has possession of your dog in a confrontational manner. For one, the person with your dog probably wasn’t involved in the dognapping; however, you do want to contact the authorities immediately to find out. Second, people who steal aren’t the most reasonable people to have a discussion with about your stolen property, so why bother?!
  • Never steal the dog back. Jumping into someone’s yard or breaking into someone’s house to claim what’s yours should never be a solution. Again, contact authorities and supply them with information of ownership so they can get to work. Sometimes you have to improvise if you feel your dog is about to go mobile; just remember, people that steal aren’t the most sympathetic.
  • BONUS* Only staple lost dog posters where legal–I almost got a ticket for stapling posters on a few trees that were off limits.

Things You Should Do

If you find your dog with someone else:

  • In some states, dogs are considered property. If you spot someone with your dog, that “property” must be returned to the rightful owner (you). One must of course provide proof of ownership: microchip, state pet license, Veterinary paperwork, pictures, anything that constitutes ownership of the dog in question. Always contact the authorities to open a case. Some states, unfortunately, don’t constitute dognapping as a crime.
  • Where authorities are of no help, try and convince the person who has possession of your dog they were stolen. Provide proof of ownership and explain to them that this could result in a lawsuit. Lawsuits like these can go either way so try and resolve it amicably without going to court–even if you’re 100% owner of the dog, I’ve read court documents where stolen dogs never made it back home. Stolen dogs/puppies are always flipped for quick cash. The oblivious owner will try their hardest not to loose their family member, either. It really is a double edged sword in these cases. Judges try and find out if the original owner provided proper containment and monitoring for the dog. They will work against the original dog owner, in most cases.
  • In the event a stolen dog ends up in the shelter system and gets adopted out, makes cases like these even more difficult because the dog’s new owner legally adopted the dog. By law, the dog’s new owner doesn’t have to return the dog; again, try and resolve these situations through sympathy and putting your dog’s new owner in your dilemma.
  • If you shared a dog with a soul mate, and that relationship comes to an end, these can be the toughest of cases. It doesn’t matter who’s spent more money on the dog; whoever has legal ownership of the dog (adoption paperwork, AKC papers, etc.) will always be rewarded ownership. If both names are registered for the dog, then it will come down to who has provided more for the dog—or who can prove they can continue to provide for the dog. Again, dogs are property in some states, so be sure to assert ownership in any partnership to avoid these kind of complications.
  • If you are contacted by someone seeking ransom for your stolen dog, contact authorities immediately. These kind of cases are a bit more enticing to authorities because this kind of extortion could be part of a sophisticated scheme.

Searching for a stolen dog:

  • Post lost dog posters everywhere, where legal. Pet stores, veterinary offices, local parks, dog parks, gas stations and super markets.
  • Inform your friends on social media. A friend of yours could have seen your dog at a friend of a friend’s party. Spread the word.
  • Encourage your community to help by offering a reward for information leading to your dog. Monetary rewards get people talking.
  • Think straight and trackback steps and patterns. Your dog could have escaped out of the house or yard. Check out these Lost & Found Dog Tips.
  • Call the animal shelter–if your dog escaped, there’s a good chance Animal Control already collected the animal.
  • Investigate your neighborhood on a daily basis–mornings, evenings, and nights.
  • Try and remember if you’ve ever come across individuals who have shown a strong interest in your dog (a weird kind of interest).
  • Always check Visit the “for sale” section in all surrounding counties. Dogs who are stolen are rarely kept. Dogs thieves are always after young dogs who can be turned into a quick sale. The second most popular kind of dogs on their lists are intact dogs who can be used for a breeding program.

I would love to hear about your stories, if you have one.

Were you able to recover your dog? If so, I would love to hear what you did to get your furry-kid back.

About the author: Dogs kick ass, we all know that. That’s why Sam has devoted his life to working with dogs, one way or another.

  • DixiesMomma

    My sister in law stole our dog from my mother’s home while we were at work, and has already switched the microchip since she works for a vet school…cops were no help. What would you suggest the next step be? We have original adoption papers but they’re 4 years old and she is a mutt so she doesn’t look like the breed they put on the papers back then. She’s lying to the cops saying she’s had her for 6 months. We just want our dog back :(

    • Samuel Nieves

      My course of action would be the microchip route. I understand you said she had it switched out, but this kind of information is always logged somewhere. Your old information should still be available. Your old adoption paperwork matched to the old microchip info will all show you are the original owner. I would find out where she did the information swap, and inform who ever performed the switch that they may be involved in a dog-napping investigation. Of course, you want the help of authorities with all of this because some Vets keep information private. And of course things like photos, witnesses, and or vet records of any kind will help greatly.

      • karen

        my dog was stolen this year on march 14 by the pass owner he taken in paws and claws i adopt the dog from them. i was out that day and he came to take my dog , i.took it to the cops dont care how can i get my baby back i seen a lawyer it cost $2000 to take him to court

  • Susan

    My pup was stolen today from my locked up yard from her leash.
    I just moved to this city and have no idea who anyone is. My 2&3 year old boys went fliering with me an hr after the incident and police were involved.

    What’s next?

    • Samuel Nieves

      Hello Susan,
      Very sorry to hear about your situation.

      Remember, puppies are rarely kept, they are sometimes sold on

      Be sure to checkout the For Sale section of Craigslist and look for your puppy. Many times they won’t post pictures, but will describe the puppy for sale in detail.

      Be sure to leave a flier or two at your local pet store. The person who ends up with the dog (if local) will have to buy dog food eventually and may even bring them in to show off.

      And if you have a Facebook be share a picture of your dog on there with your friends and family. The more eyes the better.

      If you are 100% certain that your puppy didn’t escape, still, you might want to call local animal shelters. The puppy could have escaped, or could have been turned in by someone.

      I wish you the best in your search!

  • Hotah

    Hello, my dogs were stolen five days ago from my house where my mother’s ex-husband’s mother broke in and stole everything of mine including my lovely coonhound Agony and my elderly jack russel terrier Buhba while I was visiting my grandmother. When our pet thief heard that we knew she had my animals she surrendered them to the pound.
    I of course was devastated when I heard what had happened to my beloved animals, (Who wouldn’t be though?) especially since I held Agony for what I thought would be the last when she caught Parvo, thus giving us a particularly close relationship. I stayed up all those four nights bawling and trying my best to find them when today I finally came across them in the local animal control’s website. I was thrilled, not knowing that soon my excitement was going for almost nothing. The animal shelter said they could not refuse any adoption offers on the dogs since it was first come first serve there. I of course quickly left to retrieve my babies.
    We arrived at the animal shelter the soonest we could, though it took a few hours since I was not in town. When we got there we were informed that my coonhound was just adopted out. My heart broke and I ran out of the place like a fool, crying and cursing under my breath. My mother on the other hand stayed and did what was needed to get Buhba back and called the police to see what could be done about Agony.
    After what seemed like an eternity my mother left the animal shelter and found me in an alley way a couple of blocks away still in tears. She informed me that Buhba would be given back to us tomorrow and that the police would get Agony as well. I was not sure rather or not she was being truthful about Agony, but she ‘assured’ me that since there were police reports of our dogs being stolen before Agony was sold that the people currently in possession of Agony would have to give her back since she is stolen property.
    I am not sure rather or not she was being truthful, I actually came across this trying to do my research on rather or not I would be getting my other dog back and thought ‘hey, might as well let others know of my dreadful experience.’.
    Anyways, thank-you for taking time to read this if you do. I am glad to hear you were able to get your canine back!

  • Raven Cassidy

    I am glad you got Frisco back … great post … I am very grateful that my dogs well at least one of them would attack someone before being stolen

  • emma

    This girl who works at the coffee shop stole my dog Harley while I was gone this summer. My mom and neighbors were watching him when he got loose and disappeared. No one told me till I got back and now they won’t give him back. They even paid my mom 100 for him! I’m disappointed in my mom and neighbors for it and I am trying to get him back but don’t know where to begin.. Help?! -emma

  • Cor

    I am pretty sad I shared my furry son with the ex. Once a week we would swap him. This went on for three years and we got along really well. This week I went to pick him up and she moved house, changed her job and moved interstate. I feel totally lost

  • Ju

    I’m not sure what my legal rights are with my situation, but its heart breaking either way. My husband is a school teacher and was given our dog in 2011 from one of his students who was bullied, my husband took this kid under his wing and looked out for him. This student’s dog had given birth to a litter and Barratha (the dogs name is Australian indigenous) was for us. He couldn’t have come at a better time, i was going through some dark parts in my life and this little pup brought me right out of it in a lot of ways. Because we were living in an Australian aboriginal community called Ramingining (with only about 700 people living there) everyone knew he was ours and so many people wanted him – like your situation. When i fell pregnant, he was constantly by my side, a different side of Barratha came out – a protective side. He protected me from vicious camp dogs and stalkers in the community. We went through so much together too! he’s been all over Australia. When i gave birth i needed to be in NZ with my family and we couldn’t afford an extra ticket for him so we left him with a friend. The friend thought he wouldn’t be able to look after Barratha so he gave him to another guy (without our permission but he was just thinking about the safety of our dog i guess) 6 months passed and we moved back to Australia but to a different indigenous community. We tried and tried to get in contact with this man who had our dog but he ignored our calls, we left messages but he never responded. We tried contacting his family and friends and they all said he was here, there and gave us different ways to contact him. one of the comments that slipped from a friend of this guys was “goodluck trying to get him back”. the search went on for about a year. For all we knew our beautiful boy was dead. =( One day about 6months on from when we arrived back in Australia a few of our friends from our old community told us that they’d seen our dog and that he was alive and healthy but roaming the streets. My husband and i wanted to take action, from stealing him back (which failed) we tried negotiating with the guy (just lastnight – we managed to get his number) but he says that he will never give him back, that he belongs with him now. =( he has even changed his name to buddy! =( He says that he has had him for a year now and wants to give us money for him but we dont want money we want our canine son back =( I can’t stop crying with the realisation that i may have lost him forever. Is there any way that i can win him back? We never had him microchipped due to our location at the time the vet was racist to certain dogs. we have all his injection certificates and he was desexed too we have those records. He is a Pitbull X Shar Pei. Most beautiful dog in the world. I feel like i am at a loss as my husband and i try and get through it.

  • Chrystal

    Can Someone Legally Give Away Someone Elses Dog Without Their Written Or Verbal Consent

  • Chrystal

    What Are My Legal Rights As Far As Getting My Dog Back And Having Both Parties Charged With Animal Theft Charges

  • jody

    my dog was stolen by a family friend he has had he for four month we just found out we tried to take her back and they shut the door on us called police twice and they shut the door in az what can we do

  • Judy Sharits-Johnsen

    Many times you may need to consult with an attorney to get your dog back, look for listings of attorneys in pet magazines, animal shelters or vet offices.