Dognapping is the crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 of taking a dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

 from its owner with the intention of demanding a ransom
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

. Historically in the United States, dogs had been stolen and sold on for medical research, but the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 reduced these occurrences. The profit available to dognappers varies based upon the value of the dog or the amount that its original owners are willing to pay as ransom. Dog organizations recommend the microchipping
Microchip implant (animal)
A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit placed under the skin of a dog, cat, horse, parrot or other animal. The chips are about the size of a large grain of rice and are based on a passive RFID technology....

 of dogs in order to facilitate an animal's return to its rightful owners. The word is derived from the term kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...



Dognapping is not a recent development, with reports of dogs being held by ransom since the 1930s. Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 students kidnapped Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

's mascot Handsome Dan
Handsome Dan
Handsome Dan is a bulldog who serves as the mascot of Yale University's athletic teams. In addition to a person wearing a costume, the position is filled by an actual bulldog, the honor being transferred to another upon death or retirement...

 II in March 1934, which was reported by the media as "dognapping". By July of the same year, what was considered by the press to be Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

's first case of dognapping was solved with the return of a Boston Terrier
Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is a breed of dog originating in the United States of America. This "American Gentleman" was accepted in 1893 by the American Kennel Club as a non-sporting breed. Color and markings are important when distinguishing this breed to the AKC standard. They should be either black,...

 named Kids Boot Ace, who had been missing for five months.

The first high-profile case of dognapping for monetary ransom occurred in 1948. The editor of House & Garden
House & Garden (magazine)
House & Garden was an American shelter magazine published by Condé Nast Publications that focused on interior design, entertaining, and gardening....

magazine, Richardson Wright, had a Pekingese
The Pekingese, or "Peke" is an ancient breed of toy dog, originating in China. The breed was favored by the Chinese Imperial court, and its name refers to the city of Beijing where the Forbidden City resides...

 puppy taken by a passing motorist who later telephoned to demand from him "as much money as you can pay" for the dog's return. By 1952, gangs of dognappers were reported in the media. During this period, research laboratories would purchase "bootleg" dogs for experimentation, and patterns of thefts were apparent with specific types of dogs going missing at certain times. This led to the consideration of using dogs obtained from dog wardens instead of destroying those dogs, in order to cut down on the market for dognappers to sell on stolen dogs. Gangs would often move dogs out of state for resale. In addition to selling dogs on for scientific research, dognappers would sometimes return the dogs simply to collect the reward set by its owners. A dognapper speaking to Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 members about the crime in return for his identity being protected stated that: "If they had a collar on, I would try to get a reward for them, because a lot of times a person would like to get a dog back. I got $5 for bringing two Basset Hound
Basset Hound
The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family. They are scent hounds, bred to hunt rabbits and hare by scent. Their sense of smell for tracking is second only to that of the Bloodhound....

s back one time."

With the rise in popularity of conformation show
Conformation show
Conformation shows, also referred to as breed shows, are a kind of dog show in which a judge familiar with a specific dog breed evaluates individual purebred dogs for how well the dogs conform to the established breed type for their breed, as described in a breed's individual breed standard.A...

ing, show dogs began to be specifically targeted. In 1959, ten Poodle
The Poodle is a breed of dog. The poodle breed is found officially in toy, miniature, and standard sizes, with many coat colors. Originally bred as a type of water dog, the poodle is highly intelligent and skillful in many dog sports, including agility, obedience, tracking, and even herding...

s valued at a total of $25,000 were ransomed for a sum of $5,000 in New York state. In this case, the dogs were taken by a group of three women, including one who formerly worked for the owner of the dogs as a groomer
Dog grooming
Dog grooming refers to both the hygienic care and cleaning of a dog, as well as a process by which a dog's physical appearance is enhanced for showing or other types of competition. A dog groomer is a person who earns their living grooming dogs.-Reasons for grooming:Grooming is an important part...

. The charges brought were that of burglary
Burglary is a crime, the essence of which is illicit entry into a building for the purposes of committing an offense. Usually that offense will be theft, but most jurisdictions specify others which fall within the ambit of burglary...

. By 1965, dognappers were targeting specific dogs being used in Greyhound racing
Greyhound racing
Greyhound racing is the sport of racing greyhounds. The dogs chase a lure on a track until they arrive at the finish line. The one that arrives first is the winner....

. A dog named Hi Joe, valued by his owners at around $14,000, was taken from his kennel in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England. It was thought that the dog was being taken to Scotland to be run in order to earn money for his dognappers as the dog had won all of his last six races. This was Britain's first recorded dognapping.

The dognapping law

By the mid-1960s, calls were being made for laws to prevent dognapping. The United States Congress was already working on legislation to restrict the handling and sale of animals for research when a pet Dalmatian
Dalmatian (dog)
The Dalmatian is a breed of dog whose roots are often said to trace back to Dalmatia, a region of Croatia where the first illustrations of the dog have been found. The Dalmatian is noted for its unique black- or brown-spotted coat and was mainly used as a carriage dog in its early days...

 was taken in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 during June 1965, and ten days later a Dalmatian was reported to have died during experimental heart surgery in a New York hospital. The dog was thought to be the same animal as it was traced to a farm which supplied two Dalmatians to that hospital, but by the time it was discovered that the dogs were delivered directly to the hospital and not the farm, the dog's corpse had been cremated. This incident started a series of events which led to Congress discussing the matter. The two senators who led the drive for a new law were Joseph S. Clark
Joseph S. Clark
Joseph Sill Clark, Jr. was a U.S. lawyer and Democratic Party politician in the mid-20th century. He served as the mayor of Philadelphia from 1952 until 1956, and as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1957 until 1969...

 and Joseph Resnick.

Opponents to the bill argued that very few research animals were stolen, while Clark argued that it was natural to make dognapping a federal crime as it was already illegal to transport stolen cars and cattle across state lines. The American Humane Society presented evidence of dog theft rings in Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 and New York; and another witness stated that boys were being paid $2 for each dog they delivered to a dealer. Medical research organisations sought to change the bill by removing references to animals other than cats or dogs, saying that: "It would impose a well-nigh impossible burden to regulate traffic in fish, frogs, turtles, reptiles, birds and the many other mammalian forms used in laboratories." The senate was reported to have received more mail on the dognapping bill than on civil rights or the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. During its introduction the bill was known as "The dognapping law"; once introduced, it became the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.

1970s and beyond

After the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, the trade in dognapping simply moved on to other revenue sources. Pet shops were found to be purchasing stolen dogs, and some laboratories were found to be continuing to accept them. Newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

ran articles advising readers on how to prevent their dogs from being stolen. Celebrities continued to be targeted, with NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

 driver Junior Johnson
Junior Johnson
Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr. , better known as Junior Johnson, is a retired moonshiner in the rural South who became one of the early superstars of NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s. He won 50 NASCAR races in his career before retiring in 1966...

's dog being returned after he offered a $1,000 reward; a group of three men said that they had simply found the dog, although when they met with Johnson they took the care to cover the licence plate of their car with a paper bag. By 1976, more than a hundred dogs per month were being taken and held for ransom in Chicago alone. In 1978 a Boxer
Boxer (dog)
Developed in Germany, the Boxer is a breed of stocky, medium-sized, short-haired dog. The coat is smooth and fawn or brindled, with or without white markings. Boxers are brachycephalic , and have a square muzzle, mandibular prognathism , very strong jaws and a powerful bite ideal for hanging on to...

 show dog named Tyegarth Bottoms Up was taken from the Crufts
Crufts is an annual international Championship conformation show for dogs organised and hosted by the Kennel Club, currently held every March at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England. It is the largest annual dog show in the world, as declared by Guinness World Records, and lasts...

 dog show in England, only to be found some time later after he was brought to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is the UK's oldest and most famous home for dogs and cats and is situated in the Battersea area of London, England. It is financed by voluntary donations with an income of over £12.2 million in 2009.-History:...


Statistics in the United Kingdom showed that over three hundred dogs per year were being stolen by 2006, with instances mentioned of dogs being stolen by gangs involved in Irish Traveller
Irish Traveller
Irish Travellers are a traditionally nomadic people of ethnic Irish origin, who maintain a separate language and set of traditions. They live predominantly in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.-Etymology:...

 communities. In 2009, some 24 dogs were taken in a two week period from the Forest of Dean
Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean is a geographical, historical and cultural region in the western part of the county of Gloucestershire, England. The forest is a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west and north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east.The...

 area of Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

, with the gang targeting working dogs such as Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever is one of several kinds of retriever, a type of gun dog. A breed characteristic is webbed paws for swimming, useful for the breed's original purpose of retrieving fishing nets. The Labrador is the most popular breed of dog by registered ownership in Canada, the United...

s and spaniel
A spaniel is a type of gun dog. It is assumed spaniels originated from Spain as the word spaniel may be derived from Hispania or possibly from the French phrase "Chiens de l’Espagnol" . Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of dense brush. By the late 17th century spaniels had become...


The American Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official...

 began to track pet thefts in the United States in 2007, and found that in 2009 alone a 30% increase has been seen in this type of crime. In recent years, celebrities continue to be targeted with British West End theatre
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 star Sheridan Smith
Sheridan Smith
Sheridan Smith is an English actress and singer who is best known for her contributions to the British sitcoms Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Gavin & Stacey and Benidorm. She has also become a recognised face in West End theatre, where she has appeared in Little Shop of Horrors,...

's Shar Pei
Shar Pei
The Shar Pei, or Chinese Shar-Pei, is a breed of dog known for its distinctive features of deep wrinkles and a blue-black tongue. The breed comes from China. The name translates to "sand skin" and refers to the texture of its short, rough coat...

 being taken twice in the space of a month with police believing it to be a repeat offence. The first time that the dog went missing, it was recognised by staff at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home after radio DJ Chris Moyles
Chris Moyles
Christopher David Moyles is an English radio and television presenter and author, who currently presents The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 and Chris Moyles' Quiz Night on Channel 4....

 put out an appeal during his breakfast show on BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1 is a British national radio station operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation which also broadcasts internationally, specialising in current popular music and chart hits throughout the day. Radio 1 provides alternative genres after 7:00pm including electronic dance, hip hop, rock...


Two stolen dogs were found in an operating room at South America's oldest university in 2009. While the university admitted using dogs for education purposes, the Dean of Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

's University of San Marcos denied that they had been paying dognappers to provide dogs to use as specimens for classes.

Dognapping has evolved over the years, with one method now used by prospective criminals being to respond to adverts placed on the Internet selling puppies and entering family homes posing as purchasers to view the dogs before stealing them under threat of violence.


Dogs can be fitted with microchip implant
Microchip implant (animal)
A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit placed under the skin of a dog, cat, horse, parrot or other animal. The chips are about the size of a large grain of rice and are based on a passive RFID technology....

s that make them identifiable if they are found. This enables a dog to be identified unless the chip has been removed or has degraded, been assimilated or otherwise been deactivated. Similar methods such as DNA sampling
DNA sequencing
DNA sequencing includes several methods and technologies that are used for determining the order of the nucleotide bases—adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine—in a molecule of DNA....

 or ear-tattooing are used to identify individual animals and to deter dognappers. Other prevention devices include flashing lights on the dog's collar and strong leashes locked to the collar.

Prior to modern identification techniques being introduced, it was suggested that dogs should be tattooed with a unique identification mark. Different organisations used different marks; for instance, the National Dog Registry suggested that the owner's social security number should be used, whereas the American Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official...

 stated that the registry number of the dog should be tattooed inside the hind leg near the body; the United Kennel Club
United Kennel Club
The United Kennel Club is the second oldest all-breed registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States and the second largest in the world. According to the website, the club records 250,000 registrations annually. The UKC is not part of the International Canine Organisation, Fédération...

 suggesting a similar use of their registry numbers.

In popular culture

In 1934, Walt Disney Productions produced an animated short film called The Dognapper
The Dognapper
The Dognapper is a 1934 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by United Artists. The cartoon stars Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck as police officers who chase after Pegleg Pete after he abducts Minnie's dog Fifi...

which starred Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

 and Donald Duck
Donald Duck
Donald Fauntleroy Duck is a cartoon character created in 1934 at Walt Disney Productions and licensed by The Walt Disney Company. Donald is an anthropomorphic white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He typically wears a sailor suit with a cap and a black or red bow tie. Donald is most...

. Peg Leg Pete played the title role who had abducted Minnie's dog Fifi.

In 1961, Disney also produced the full-length film 101 Dalmations
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
One Hundred and One Dalmatians, often abbreviated as 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith...

which detailed Cruella de Vil's
Cruella de Vil
Cruella de Vil is a fictional character and the iconic villain in Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Disney's 1961 animated film adaptation One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Disney's live-action film adaptations 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians. In all her incarnations,...

 botched dognapping of Pongo and Perdita's puppies. The film latched onto the social panic surrounding dognapping in the years before the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.
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