Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the increased dog-napping cases in the Okanagan. Since then two puppies were stolen and later returned to their owners, and four additional dogs vanished without a trace.
I followed up that column with an online report aimed at the police and the media in hopes that they would inform the public about this under reported subject. The listing I compiled includes 39 dogs that have gone missing in the last nine months that were abducted and retrieved or have not been found. I’ve talked to most of the owners of these pets. At least 15 of them were stolen, the rest remain a mystery.
To some, this isn’t a big deal. As the law states, dogs are merely property, and their theft isn’t considered any worse than that of a bicycle. To others, like me, this is devastating, since our pets are beloved members of our family and their lives and ours can be deeply impacted in a negative way when they suddenly disappear.
I know this to be true because our world has been turned inside out ever since our adored five-year-old cockapoo, Charlie, went missing on March 23 from Glenrosa, West Kelowna, where we live. Since then I’ve been on a mission to find him, and that mission has extended to the other missing dogs of the Okanagan as well.
After looking through the pictures of all the pups I was able to find still being advertised as missing, a reporter friend asked: “Are these numbers out of the ordinary?”
Good question. Having never known anyone to lose their pet for more than a day or two, and having no concept as to what would be the norm for the number of missing dogs in an area of our size, I had to ask that as well. What I’ve come to discover is that it’s not standard at all.
“Typically when a canine goes missing it’s found,” a Kelowna dog control officer explained. “If no body or evidence of an attack is ever discovered, and the majority of the disappearing pets are sell-able purebred types or fighter breeds, it’s not hard to figure out they’re probably being stolen.”
Gina Knutsen, who manages the popular Facebook page Okanagan Lost and Found Pets, agrees. “Normally I’m posting pictures of lost cats,” she said. “But there’s been a significant spike in missing dogs recently. Hopefully once the public realizes there’s a problem, someone will remember seeing something and report it so we can figure out what’s going on and stop it.”
Many people, including the mayor of West Kelowna just a few days ago, have wondered why anyone would want to steal a dog. Once again, this was a question I initially had to ask as well. I’ve learned a lot about the black market for stolen dogs in the last six weeks and its ugliness is shocking.
Not only are these poached pets often sold to unsuspecting people who’ve been told a bogus story about the pooch being abandoned, abused or something of that nature, they’re also stolen for breeding, ransom and more grotesque motives such as dog fighting, lab research, revenge and the unthinkable.
There are other reasons as well, such as unconscionable neighbours or pranksters who dump animals far from home leaving them to fend for themselves. Unfortunately the criminals responsible for any of these abhorrent acts are rarely caught, and if they are, the penalty is never harsh enough.
Of course, theft isn’t the only thing we have to worry about when it comes to the safety of our pets. We also have to be mindful of traffic and wildlife, and since it’s that time of year when hungry coyotes and cougars are looking for their next meal, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions.
If possible, provide your dogs with a fenced backyard that locks, and don’t leave them unattended if wildlife is a concern; don’t leave them alone in front of a store or in an unlocked house; try not to leave them in your car; and get your pets registered, fixed, tattooed and microchipped.
To review the list of the missing dogs I compiled, Google “Lost and stolen dogs of the Okanagan Lori Welbourne.”
If you see any of these pups solo or with a person, please take their picture if you’re safely able to, and contact the owners ASAP. If they’re on their own, please don’t chase, but do try to help them as you would if you saw a toddler without a parent.
If you have any tips on stolen animals of the Okanagan please call the West Kelowna RCMP at 250-768-2880 or contact Lori@LoriWelbourne.com.
Lori Welbourne in a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com.