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The mystery of the missing dogs

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This is an unpleasant topic this morning, but one that needs to be discussed because it's turning out to be the elephant in the room: missing dogs.

Almost every day there are new posts about dogs going missing from their yards, and many of these yards are fenced. Sometimes the gate is open, sometimes it isn't. The assumption is usually that the dog managed to escape and run away, and in some cases this is no doubt true. Sometimes a coyote or other wild animal gets blamed for the disappearance.

But the reality is there appears to be an epidemic of pure-bred or designer mixed breed dogs disappearing from their homes without a trace and without an explanation. These are dogs who have never wandered away from home before. Many have just been let out in the fenced yard to go potty for a few minutes, often on a fixed schedule.

Some of these dogs will show up in shelters or be found many miles away, far beyond the wandering range of these pups. Some will be taken in by well-meaning people who have no idea that someone is looking for the dog. Most will never be seen again.

There is mounting suspicion that predators of the two-legged variety may be responsible for many of these disappearances. Most of the dogs stolen are not generic mixed breeds that are beloved pets with high sentimental value but have little "resale" value; most are dogs or puppies that can be resold for upwards of $100.

So what's happening here? Last summer there was an "outbreak" of missing pit bulls in South Carolina. When carefully examined, the overwhelming majority of these pit bulls had one thing in common: their photos were posted publicly on social media. This is likely to be the case in many of these missing dogs as well.

What can you do to protect your dog from becoming one of these statistics?

1. If you post photos of your pet on social media, consider restricting the visibility to your friends list. That will cut down on the number of people who see the pet.

2. Know who is on your friends list.

3. Don't post your schedule - if you walk your dog every day at 3 pm, it's just not a good idea to advertise that fact to the general public.

4. Keep an eye on your dog. Many of these missing pooches disappeared while their owners were inside for just a few minutes. It doesn't take long to snatch a dog.

5. Make sure your dog is microchipped, and make sure the dog wears the microchip tag at all times. A microchip greatly increases the chances that the dog will be identified, so a dog thief may not bother to steal the dog if he knows that the first time the new owner takes it to the vet and it gets scanned for a chip, the dog will be identified as one that is stolen. The reason the dog needs to wear the tag indicating that he is microchipped is because it's a deterrent. The microchip is invisible, and the only way the would-be dog thief knows the dog has a chip is that little tag.

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