It’s a horror story for any pet owner, having your dog snatched right from under your nose, but that’s what’s going on in South Jersey, where a rash of dog thefts have been occurring.

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Dozens of dog thefts have been reported in Atlantic County and Cumberland County as they've seen 43 dog-napping cases, primarily of small dogs like Yorkies, Malteses, Shizhu, as well as small designer dog mixes.

Charlene Rosenbaum, Animal Cruelty Investigator with the Cumberland County SPCA, says those small dogs can fetch a hefty price.

“You see a little Yorkie-poo sitting on someone’s yard and no one’s around so you take it, you can turn around and sell if for $500.”

In addition to be sold or kept as personal pets, Rosenbaum says more nefarious owners will use the stolen dogs as “bait dogs” in fighting rings.

“So they bait the dog that they want to fight with this other person’s dog that’s not trained to fight it’s going to work of instinct.  And if it’s obviously a smaller and weaker dog, it’s really not going to be any match.”

She notes they are “chew toys” for the fighting dogs.

How to Protect Your Pet

In order to protect your furry friends, Rosenbaum strongly suggests getting dogs micro chipped, which will allow their owner’s information to be digitally stored via an RF chip implanted under the dogs skin.

If a dog ends up in a shelter or many veterinarian’s offices, the information will be received and owners can be contacted. She notes it also works if your dog is stolen and another owner tries bringing them in for a vet visit.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where your dog is stolen or missing, Rosenbaum says the police should be your first call.

“A dog is considered property in the state in New Jersey. So technically and legally, when someone steals a dog, they’re taking someone’s property.”

The most crucial advice offered by Rosenbaum is to not leave your pooch outside unattended.

“There’s really nothing that secures the animal outside. It has the best chance of not being taken if it’s inside your home.”