FINDING STOLEN DOGS
This article is provided free as a service
and may be reprinted IN PRINT ON PAPER ONLY
in its entirety exactly as written
with the following wording:
Copyright 2007-2013 Caryl Wolff All rights reserved. Used by permission.
I will be happy to send you a Word or PDF file that is formatted and ready for publication in booklet form (including pagination, Table of Contents, and log sheets), so that you can print it out for distribution. Please email me at www.DoggieManners.com or http://doggiemanners.com/art_finding_stolen_dogs.html on any Websites, newsletters, blogs, or email discussion groups.
. I do ask that you link to
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is all the information I have.
I understand that this a difficult time for you if your dog was stolen.
or cannot help find or reunite you with your dog.
I welcome emails that say "thank you for your information,"
but please don't email or call me to ask for further assitance
because I can't help you any further.
Thank you for your understanding.
Dear Caryl --
Thank you for your article. I found my dog, DELLA, 3 days after her disappearance and I had her back because I followed your instructions and I put that she needed medication to survive.
Veronique Lestrade Sfara
I am a dog trainer and was walking my dogs one evening when I received a phone call from one of my clients whom I had just seen a few hours earlier. She had gone to a shopping center and had left her puppy in a carrier in the car with the window opened about an inch for ventilation. When she returned to the car, the dog had been stolen. She called me to ask what to do. I gave her the information I thought of at that moment and then raced home to research the Internet and my files. I discovered that there was a lot of information on what to do if a dog is lost but very little on what to do if a dog is stolen. Unfortunately, some of the procedures are very different, and the available information is in bits and pieces. I think that this information should be accessible to anyone immediately in one source to make the best use of precious time.
This article is the result of over 100 hours of research and interviews, and I have consolidated the information here so it will be accessible to anyone who wants it. A big THANK YOU to the spcaLA, the Los Angeles Animal Control, and the Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force for their help.
I welcome any additions you may offer. Please email suggestions to
. PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME.
What follows is an ACTION GUIDE: things for you to do NOW, things to do IMMEDIATELY AFTER your dog is stolen, and then what to do to FOLLOW UP.
The bullet points are for your information. The action points have check boxes so you can check each one off when it's been completed.
Please store the Word or PDF file in your computer and print several copies out NOW. Put them in several accessible locations because at a highly stressed time when your dog is gone, you probably will forget where it is if it's only in one place. And if your home is burglarized and your dog is taken, there is a huge probability that your computer will be taken as well.
Who is at most risk to get stolen? Small dogs and puppies because they are easily transportable, but large dogs are stolen as well for guard dogs.
Included here are reasons for theft and where a thief can sell your dog so as to jog your mind as to possibilities as to who stole your dog.
- Cult rituals
- Dog fighting rings
- Flea markets
- Fur or clothing
- Guard dogs
- Impulsive stealing – a crime of opportunity
- Keep your dog for themselves
- Gift your dog to someone else
- Meat for human consumption
- Drug dealers or users
- Government laboratories
- Industries for research in the following fields:
- People who disagree with how you are taking care of your dog
- Pet stores
- Puppy mills (for breeding or to sell as puppies)
- Prey for exotic animals
- Protective or guard dogs
- Registered animal dealers (These are people who sell animals to the research facilities. Many do not care where the dogs come from.)
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THINGS TO DO NOW
There are a lot of things you can do NOW so you won’t waste time when it counts. DO IT NOW. You don’t know when or where your dog will be stolen from, but chances are it will be someplace near your home.
Gather information now. Make a list of addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers using www.superpages.com (Local phone books do not generally list fax numbers or ZIP codes.) of all veterinarians, animal hospitals, pet shops, grooming shops, and any other facilities listed under Pets or Dogs. These are the people you are going to want to contact immediately. (You can also ask your vet to borrow his AVMA directory for veterinarians in your area.)
Get the names of registered animal dealers and research facilities in your area. Here are the links where you can find them.
o http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/lists/listr.pdf research facilities
o http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/lists/lista.pdf A dealers
o http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/lists/listb.pdf B dealers
o http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/lists/listc.pdf Movie & TV rentals, Zoos
Take some clear, close-up photos of your dog for flyers and posters. The photos should show his head clearly and a side profile of his body. Crop photos so there is no extraneous background.
- Color for flyers and posters
- Black and white for faxes and flyers (Test it by faxing it to someone to make sure people can easily tell that it’s your dog.)
Write out a general description and a specific description.
The general description is for the flyers, posters, and phone calls. The specific description is for the person finding your dog to give to you.
- You may forget specifics because you are stressed.
- The photo may not show any distinguishing marks.
- Photos will not be included in lost and found ads or on radio.
- Some people don’t recognize breeds by name.
- Breed or if mixed, the breed it most resembles
- Coat texture (rough, silky, smooth, wiry, etc.)
- Ear set (erect, cropped, tipped, left ear folds over, etc.)
- Eye color
- Hair length (short, medium, long)
- Identification information
Tattoo registry information including tattoo number and registry phone number
Microchip registry information including chip number and registry phone number
- Markings (patches, spots, tattoos)
- Tail (long, short, medium, docked, bushy, corkscrew, C-shaped, etc.)
Make a mockup of flyers and posters. Make flyers so people can read them and put them where people can see them. If you have a flyer prepared in advance, you can store it on your computer. All you will have to do is to print it out and put in the information where your dog was stolen. This again will save you time in your search. A detailed description of how to make posters and flyers as well as a template flyer is available in the Word or PDF versions.
If you can get the supplies now, that’s even better than waiting until your dog is missing. A list of supplies is at the end of this article.
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THINGS TO DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR DOG IS STOLEN
1. Check to make sure your dog is actually stolen. Make sure he/she is not out with a family member, in the back yard, or hiding somewhere unusual.
2. IMMEDIATELY call your local law enforcement agency to make a report. Do this before anything else. Unfortunately, taking reports for stolen dogs is not law enforcement’s top priority, but insist that they take a report. If they get several reports in a particular area, then that probably indicates that there is a theft ring in that area.
3. If your dog was stolen in an area that you think is videotaped such as a mall parking lot, go to the manager of the mall and request a copy of the tape.
4. Post your dog’s photo and videos on YouTube and MySpace and with an announcement that it is stolen and the particulars of the theft.
5. The next thing is to assemble a SEARCH TEAM. Speed is ESSENTIAL. People will help you, but they need to know that your dog is missing and what he looks like. You need to tell everybody that your dog is stolen as fast as you can – the more people that know, the sooner they know, the better your chances are of recovery. You can, of course, do this all yourself. But you likely will become overwhelmed and emotionally drained quickly.
Get as many people as you can to help – but you need two people to help you immediately.
The first person will go to the area immediately where your dog was stolen to see if there were any witnesses or suspicious activity. Give him a photo of your dog. Tell him to show it to everyone he speaks to and ask if anyone saw or heard anything unusual, including strange vehicles, work crews, people, or activities. He should get as detailed descriptions as possible and write down everything they tell him.
The second person will go get supplies and also copy the flyers (after you’ve filled in the specifics) and log sheets (more later).
WHERE TO FIND PEOPLE TO HELP IN YOUR SEARCH
Boy/Girl Scout troops
Dog rescue organizations
Hire people by placing ads in –
- College newspapers
Organizations that you belong to such as chamber of commerce
WHAT YOU WILL DO
You are the pivot point in the search. You will assign tasks and keep track of what everyone is doing. Everyone will report to you so you can coordinate their efforts.
You will have a master map as well as log sheets. You want to make the most productive use of your time, and the log sheets are so people do not duplicate efforts and also so you have the information at your fingertips if you have to refer to it later. (Log sheets which you can duplicate are at the end of this article.) Keep the sheets in a loose leaf notebook so they don’t get misplaced.
Regarding the map:
Divide it into sections.
Assign a section to each person.
Start at the location where your dog was stolen and branch out from there.
Have each team member record every location where they hung a flyer or poster on their log sheets.
Assign a task to each team member. The tasks are to
- Make phone calls. For every person you call, tell them you will be sending them a flyer and then SEND it.
- Make posters and flyers.
- Put up flyers and posters and talk to possible witnesses and record on log sheets. (see below)
- Send emails (see below)
- Send faxes (see below)
WHAT YOUR TEAM MEMBERS WILL DO
Each member who is responsible for distributing flyers and/or posters will receive the supplies listed at the end of this article plus log sheets to record where they have posted flyers and who they have talked to. (The log sheets are included in the Word and PDF files.)
Each member who is responsible for phone calls, faxes, and emails will record the phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses and who they spoke to on their log sheet.
Every member should have the same description of your dog.
Every member should have flyers, posters and all contact info of all other team members.
Everyone should have log sheets to record their information so there is no duplication of efforts.
Everyone should call you every couple hours to check in.
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THINGS TO DO IN YOUR SEARCH
There are four ways to let people know your dog has been stolen:
- Make calls
- Hang flyers and posters
- Talk to people personally
- Send emails
You keep a sheet for incoming phone calls from your team and one for any calls generated from flyers and ads.
Team members should hand out flyers to everyone they talk to and get permission to post them in business windows or by cash registers.
Call these people. You can begin calling immediately and then follow up by email or faxing them a flyer.
- All local shelters and vets within 25 miles of where your dog was stolen
- Animal agencies and rescues
- Animal shelters
- Animal control agencies
- County and city shelters
- Humane societies
- Animal microchip, tattoo, and tag registries
- Breed clubs
- Breed rescue groups
- City newspapers (both to place an ad and the reporters when on assignment may see your dog or want to do a story)
- Dog trainers
- Dog walkers
- Doggie day cares
- Emergency veterinary clinics
- Horse trainers
- Kennels and boarding facilities
- Local TV stations (the reporters when on assignment may see your dog or want to do a story)
- Local radio stations
- Mobile groomers
- Mobile vets
- Neighborhood crime watch groups
- Pet sitters
- Pet stores
- Registered animal dealers and research facilities
PLACES TO HANG FLYERS AND POSTERS
- Any bulletin board on any business you can think of
- Anywhere groups of people frequent that get a lot of foot traffic
Flyers may be visible from a car, but they are not readable. If you want readability, then you must have a large poster with a large photo. If you only put flyers on telephone poles or at intersections, pedestrians will be able to read the information and photo but not car occupants.
Place posters on all four corners of an intersection so that drivers of cars of oncoming traffic can read them.
Place them eye level to people riding in cars.
Here are some specifics.
- Bars and taverns
- Beauty salons
- Bus stops
- Churches and synagogues
- Coffee houses
- Colleges and universities
- Community centers
- Day care centers for children
- Doors of residences (NOT in mailboxes)
- Emergency vet hospitals
- Feed stores
- Fire departments
- Gas and service stations, Minimarts
- Grocery stores
- Grooming shops
- Hotels and motels, especially ones that accept pets
- Internet cafes
- Mechanics and auto repair shops
- Near time clocks and/or bulletin boards of local businesses
- Office buildings
- Park benches
- Pet stores
- Post offices
- Recreation areas
- Rest stops
- Schools (Ask permission to give a flyer to each teacher to show to the class.)
- Shopping malls
- Tack stores
- Telephone poles
- Vehicles windshields in the immediate neighborhood
- Veterinary offices
- Walking or jogging paths
- Windshields of parked cars
Give flyers to these people in and around where your dog was stolen as well as anywhere else you see them. These are people who are travel and are outside frequently or know their neighborhoods well.
- Anyone you see on the street
- Business owners in the area
- Cab drivers
- Children of friends or neighborhood children
- City street maintenance workers
- Construction crews
- Delivery people – anyone from pizza to UPS
- Dog walkers
- Garbage collectors
- Gardeners and landscaping crews
- Gas and oil delivery people
- Highway maintenance/cleanup crews
- Home heating fuel delivery man
- Law enforcement
- Highway patrol
- State troopers
- Mail carriers
- Meter readers
- Mobile catering trucks (that service construction crews)
- Newspaper delivery people
- Parents waiting at the school bus stop
- People at dog adoption events
- People at street fairs
- Penny savers
- Pet sitters
- Road crews and construction workers
- School bus drivers
- School crossing guards
- Truck drivers
- Utility workers
OTHER TIPS FOR FLYERS AND POSTERS
Distribute flyers as soon as possible.
Follow up EVERY phone call with a flyer sent either by fax or email and tell the person you talk to that you are sending one.
Tape a large poster on the back and sides of your car, volunteers’ cars, and anyone else who will let you. Use gaffer’s tape so it won’t ruin the paint on the car.
Keep flyers in your car and ask everyone you see if they will help you by handing them out.
Email your friends with the flyer attachment and ask them to email their friends.
Bring flyers to work with you and distribute them. Ask your coworkers for their email addresses and send them flyers so then can email it to their friends.
Many of your flyers and posters will be removed. Go back as often as feasible and put them up again.
If another language is spoken in the area where your dog was stolen, make flyers and posters in that language.
WEBSITES TO POST INFORMATION
These sites offer listings for lost/stolen/found pets. Do not join any email groups that do not require moderator approval.
www.craigslist.org Check the advertisements for Lost Dogs, Dogs For Sale, and Found Dogs ads.
The following sites are for grief, loss, and support. I was not able to find anything specifically for stolen dogs.
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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DO RECEIVE RESPONSES
There are four types of people that will call you:
- The thief
- A witness to the theft
- A person who has seen your dog but does not want to get involved
The best tool that you have for this is your cell phone because it will always be with you. Answer phone calls immediately and write down everything the person tells you including:
- Why the person thinks it’s your dog
His name, address, phone. You need to contact him to give him the reward AFTER you recover your dog.
- Time of day he calls you
- Location of the person calling you (f he will give it)
Description of person or persons who have your dog (if it is a witness or someone wanting the reward)
- Description of car if applicable
- License plate number and state
- What direction they were headed if they are driving
Any other pertinent information, such as, “He just went into Apartment 6 at 444 Main Street.”
You are going to ask the caller for a more complete description of your dog. HE is going to have to tell YOU what your dog looks like. Do not ask him any leading questions such as, “Does he have white speckles on his right front paw?” or “Does his left ear stand up and the right one folds over?” Instead, ask if there is anything different about the markings on his legs or something about any features on his head, face, or ears.
Then ask him something specific that you know is incorrect, such as, “Does he have a white blaze on his chest?” If the person says yes, you know it’s not your dog.
Be courteous and act thankful on the phone even if he asks for a reward. If you act suspicious and the person has information, you may scare him off.
If someone has seen your dog, then you must go immediately because the thief could leave. Again, DO NOT GO ALONE. Make sure it is not a scam. More later on scams.
DO NOT MEET ANYONE BY YOURSELF.
DON’T INVITE ANYONE TO YOUR HOME OR GIVE OUT YOUR ADDRESS.
MEET IN A PUBLIC PLACE.
Contact law enforcement immediately and have them meet you at the location. If law enforcement will not go with you, take a friend. Do not go alone and do not confront the person.
Alternately, observe the area and get any identifying information you can and then call law enforcement. Tell them that you have located your dog who has been stolen and you need their assistance immediately.
DON’T PAY ANYONE ANYTHING UNTIL YOU PHYSICALLY HAVE YOUR DOG IN YOUR POSSESSION. He may give you a plausible story as to why he does not have the dog with him so you’ll pay him the reward. (Remember, scammers are con artists and they are good at their jobs of conning you.) If you pay him the money and then go to the place he told you, your dog will not be there.
If someone is a witness or gives you information where to find your dog, then get their contact information and give them the reward AFTER you have your dog. Remember that the reward is for information leading to the recovery of your dog.
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Madeline Bernstein of spcaLA put this very succinctly, “These people capitalize on the value of your dog in your personal life. And they know that there’s lots of money to be made from the human/animal bond.”
Even though I use the pronoun “he” in these descriptions, many of these scammers are women. Don’t be fooled.
There are variations on these scams, but they sound similar to the ones described here.
• The scammer calls you and wants you to meet him at a strange or dangerous location or to send him money in order to get your dog back. You can agree to do whatever he asks BUT then call your local law enforcement Detective Division, local SPCA Humane Enforcement Division, and animal control officers immediately so they can catch him.
• The scammer gave the dog to them as a gift but a family member is abusing the dog and they feel guilty about it.
• The scammer noticed your ad and wants you to make a contribution to an animal charity to honor your dog. He gives you the address where to send the donation – but it’s a bogus charity, and the money goes straight into his pocket.
• The scammer poses as a truck driver who has found your dog and will return it to you if you pay for shipment and/or vet bills.
• The scammer calls you and says that they offer a service to help you locate your dog and will do the work for you if you pay him.
• The scammer says that a relative has found a dog that looks just like yours and will return it to you if you pay for the food, vet bills, and/or shipping fees.
• The scammer says that he has found your dog but it’s in the other room. He asks you to give a more complete description, and you do. Then he goes to check and returns saying it’s not the same dog. A short time later, you get a phone call from his accomplice who parrots back the information you just gave the scammer and asks for a reward.
• Someone whose name you don’t recognize calls you collect. As the operator asks if you will accept the charges, the scammer says that he has your dog. You either do or do not accept the charges and then are immediately disconnected and a return call never comes. When you get your phone bill, the scammer has charged long distance and international calls to your number. If this happens to you, AS SOON AS THE DISCONNECT HAPPENS, CALL YOUR PHONE COMPANY AND REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY so they can monitor your line.
• The scammer says he has your dog and gives you the description in your flyer. He says he will injure your dog if you do not pay him the reward.
• You answer a “found” ad in the paper and bring the reward and he gives you a complicated story why he doesn’t have your dog but will drop it off somewhere if you give him the reward now.
• The scammer arranges a meeting. When you meet, he says that your dog is in his car and he has to go get it. You pay him the money and then he disappears.
• The scammer calls you and says he has a dog that might be yours. When you describe yours, he apologizes and says that it’s not yours, and then he gives you a heartbreaking story about the dog that he does have – or one that’s about to be euthanized at the pound or tells you something dire about his foster family – and asks that you wire money (many times through Western Union) to help pay this dog’s medical bills so he can find it a new home. You are vulnerable because your dog is gone and you may feel bad enough to send money. DON’T DO IT. There is no dog.
• A person calls you and exactly describes your dog and answers all your questions correctly. This quite possibly is the thief. Arrange for a meeting and call the police immediately.
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Write letters to your local papers and continue to post on Craig’s List to let the general public know that your dog was stolen and implore them to watch their dogs carefully and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Check newspapers daily for at least three months for Found ads and Dogs for Sale ads for a dog resembling your dog’s description. If your dog has not been neutered or spayed, then it may be used in a breeding program.
Look for ads for puppies for sale if your dog is not spayed or neutered. Gestation period for dogs is 60-64 days, and For Sale ads will start appearing soon after that. Check your newspaper for Puppies For Sale that may match your dog’s description 60-120 days after s/he is missing.
People may keep animals several weeks or months before contacting you or turning them in to a shelter.
Call police departments several times. Personnel changes, and there are new shifts of personnel on duty and people are always going on or returning from vacation.
If your city has a cable channel, watch that for listings and refer to impound numbers and impound dates when asking at the city shelters.
If you have lots of money, then buy TV or radio commercials or a billboard.
Call dead animal pickup for your area – it’s always a possibility. If you find your dog there, it will be heartbreaking but less stressful on you in the long run.
Regarding shelters, visit them in person at least twice weekly and look at all the animals. If you just call, shelter personnel may not know what kind of dog you describe or may not be familiar with the breed. Inspect every area of the shelter: exam room, quarantine room, observation area, and euthanizing area.
There are pet recovery services who will do the legwork for you. They may duplicate the steps you already have taken. If you decide to hire one, have them explain exactly what they will do and what their fee is. Then YOU need to follow up to see that they have followed through.
You can also try a pet psychic. This is an individual preference and may be too “far out” for some people. But it is an option, and that’s why I’m offering it here. Again, be VERY careful about whom you hire.
Keep to your own routine as much as possible. The more you can keep to normal patterns for yourself, the more you can stay focused and productive.
I hope you never need to use this information, but if you do, I hope it helps – and keep searching for your dog.
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SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED
You’re going to need supplies to make the posters and flyers, supplies for the people hanging the posters and flyers, and other supplies.
Here’s what you will need to make the posters and flyers:
- Black permanent marking pen with a wide tip
- Boards or cardboard to paste the flyers on
- Fluorescent yellow paper or poster board
- Sheet protectors to put the flyers in before hanging
Here’s what you need for each team member hanging the posters and flyers:
- Clear tape for wrapping mailed packages (not cellophane tape for wrapping gifts or duct tape
- Clear Contact paper
- Gaffer’s tape (to put signs on cars)
- Map (a master map for you and copies of maps for each team member)
- Stapler and staples
- Thumbtacks or pushpins
Here are the other supplies you need:
- Hammer and nails
- Loose leaf notebook
- Log sheets (see below)
- Telephone calls, faxes, and emails your team has made and/or received
- Where flyers have been placed
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HOW TO MAKE YOUR FLYERS AND POSTERS
Your flyer should be as simple as possible – use bullet points – and easy to read so people can read it at a glance.
- Use the entire page.
- Use Arial or Verdana fonts.
- Use as large a font as you can and still get all the information on it.
- Bold all fonts.
- Use short, descriptive phrases.
- Use upper and lower case letters in the description.
- Put the amount of your reward on the poster. You need to motivate people who may not otherwise get involved to help you, and stating the amount of the reward will motivate them.
- You may want to print a separate page of tearoffs with your phone number and tape it to the bottom of the flyers. Don’t put it in the flyer because it takes up too much room.
How your flyer should look
Visually, divide your flyer approximately into fifths from the top to the bottom. The top fifth should have the following in as large letters as possible:
The next line should state in smaller letters
for information leading to the return of
Do not put your dog’s name on the flyer. It’s unnecessary and takes up room.
The next two fifths of the page should have the most recent photo of your dog that clearly shows his face and body.
The next fifth should have in bullet points
• Breed or simple description if mixed breed
• Age, sex, weight
• If he needs medication or vet care (optional)
• Distinctive markings (optional)
• Where missing and at what date and time
The last fifth should have your phone number with area code at the bottom of the page in a larger font. This number should be one where someone will answer at all times.
CALL (555) 555-5555
At the very bottom of your flyer, include these sentences:
This flyer will be removed when my dog is returned. Thank you.
Other flyer and poster tips
Here is an excellent link for how to make a poster http://www.missingpetpartnership.org/recovery-posters.php
- To make a poster, get a 22 x 28 fluorescent poster board.
- You can use the whole poster board or cut it in half so the pieces are 11 x 14.
- Since you probably will be writing this rather than printing it, PRINT CLEARLY. Make sure the letters are at least 3 inches high and thick enough to be read from 20 feet away.
- Use permanent ink.
- Put clear Contact paper over the poster.
- Tape securely to the pole or fasten it by putting holes in both the top and bottom, thread wire through the holes, and then securely fasten it to the post.
- If you include tearoffs so people can take your phone number with them, put the tearoffs at the bottom on the outside of the Contact paper.
Here is a link for flyers http://www.petbond.com/flyerentry.php
- Put it in a sheet protector around the 8 ½ x 11 flyer with the opening at the bottom of the flyer and tape it closed so the flyer doesn’t fall out.
- Get at least 500 flyers to start with and as many posters as you can afford.
- Make your flyers, posters, and announcements bilingual both on Internet and locally.
- When you hang the flyers, tape or staple them across the entire top and entire bottom so they can’t fall off or curl up.
- If you are going to include tearoffs so people can take your phone number with them, put the tearoffs at the bottom on the outside of the protector.
NOTE TO READERS
THE DOG PICTURED BELOW IS MY CLIENT'S DOG WHO WAS FOUND ONE YEAR AFTER HE WAS STOLEN, 100 MILES FROM WHERE HE WAS STOLEN -- BECAUSE HE HAD BEEN MICROCHIPPED.
I have gotten several emails since this article was written thanking me for this information. One of them from Felisha had an additional suggestion which I think is a good one -- on the poster, put "NEEDS MEDICATION TO SURVIVE," even if it's not true. Felisha's dog was dropped off at a vet's office 24 hours after the posters went up because, as she said, no one wants a sick dog!
for information leading to the recovery of
- Stolen from car at Culver City Target/Ross Center
- Saturday, June 9, 2007, 7:00p.m.
- Boston terrier, male
- 4 months old and 6 pounds at time of theft
This flyer will be removed when my dog is returned. Thank you.
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