Dognapping 101: What Are Your Legal Options If Your Pet Was Kidnapped?

Dognapping 101: What Are Your Legal Options If Your Pet Was Kidnapped?

Patty Lamberti
 | 
Earlier today, Lady Gaga's two dogs were kidnapped.

The incident is nothing to snicker about.  Her dog walker was shot four times. 

The event also highlights a growing crime in America - dognapping.

Some experts say that the crime of dognapping is up 70% since 2010.

It's unclear if the dognapper was motivated by Lady Gaga's celebrity status, or if the dogs' breeds were the draw.

Her dogs, French bulldogs, retail up to $8000 each, according to Newsweek

Designer breeds can fetch a few thousand dollars

Another number that may not be accounted for in official statistics? 

Pets who are "taken" by one person when a couple splits up. Sometimes, the issue of pet ownership is officiallly decided in court or through mediation. 

But other times, the pet is just another object to fight over, no different than a vase or computer.  

Is dognapping a real crime? 

Yes. 

 

In most states, the crime is technically categorized as theft or grand theft. But it may be classified as burglary if the dognapper broke into a home to take the dog.

Only 15 states consider dognapping a criminal matter. 

 

  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. Delaware
  4. Louisiana
  5. Michigan
  6. Mississippi
  7. New Hampshire
  8. New York
  9. North Carolina
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Rhode Island
  12. Virginia
  13. Texas
  14. Washington
  15. West Virginia


What if the pet is part of a breakup?

Some states are vague about deciding who gets the family pet. In some states, if domestic violence has been proven the judge can award the pet to the person who has been abused.

But if domestic violence isn't an issue, pet custody becomes less clear. 

That's why one of our lawyers can help you advocate for your pet. 


In some states, dognapping is considered a felony.

Virginia issues the most severe penalties for dog theft. Offenders can get ten years in jail for stealing a dog. 

Why would anyone steal a dog anyway? 

Revenge. Ransom (Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward, no questions asked, for the safe return of her dogs).

Often, stolent dogs are sold to unsuspecting people who are looking to add a dog toto their homes.

Sometimes, dogs are used for medical purposes.

In the worst case scenario, these dogs are used to fight other dogs in matches.

According to Canine Journal, these breeds fetch the most money when it comes to the illegal sale and purchase of dogs:

  1. Yorkshire Terrier
  2. Pomeranian
  3. Maltese
  4. Boston Terrier
  5. French Bulldog
  6. Chihuahua
  7. Labradoodle
  8. American Pit Bull Terrier
  9. German Shepherd
  10. Labrador Retriever

Our lawyers can help you if your pet has been taken - by a stranger or someone you know. It can be a serious crime, and you - and your pet - deserve a fair, impartial voice in the outcome. 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

Patty Lamberti

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