Dognapping

Dognapping is the crime of taking a dog from its owner with the intention of demanding a ransom. Historically in the United States, dogs had been stolen and sold on for medical research, but the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 reduced these occurrences. The profit available to dognappers varies based upon the value of the dog or the amount that its original owners are willing to pay as ransom. Dog organizations recommend the microchipping of dogs in order to facilitate an animal's return to its rightful owners. The word is derived from the term kidnapping. Dognapping is not a recent development, with reports of dogs being held by ransom since the 1930s. Harvard students kidnapped Yale's mascot Handsome Dan II in March 1934, which was reported by the media as "dognapping".[1][2] By July of the same year, what was considered by the press to be Chicago's first case of dognapping was solved with the return of a Boston Terrier named Kids Boot Ace, who had been missing for five months.[3] The first high-profile case of dognapping for monetary ransom occurred in 1948. The editor of House & Garden magazine, Richardson Wright, had a Pekingese puppy taken by a passing motorist who later telephoned to demand from him "as much money as you can pay" for the dog's return.[4] By 1952, gangs of dognappers were reported in the media. During this period, research laboratories would purchase "bootleg" dogs for experimentation, and patterns of thefts were apparent with specific types of dogs going missing at certain times. This led to the consideration of using dogs obtained from dog wardens instead of destroying those dogs, in order to cut down on the market for dognappers to sell on stolen dogs.[5] Gangs would often move dogs out of state for resale.[6][7] In addition to selling dogs on for scientific research, dognappers would sometimes return the dogs simply to collect the reward set by its owners. A dognapper speaking to Congress members about the crime in return for his identity being protected stated that: "If they had a collar on, I would try to get a reward for them, because a lot of times a person would like to get a dog back. I got $5 for bringing two Basset Hounds back one time." [8] With the rise in popularity of conformation showing, show dogs began to be specifically targeted. In 1959, ten Poodles valued at a total of $25,000 were ransomed for a sum of $5,000 in New York s ate. In this case, the dogs were taken by a group of three women, including one who formerly worked for the owner of the dogs as a groomer.[9] The charges brought were that of burglary.[10] By 1965, dognappers were targeting specific dogs being used in Greyhound racing. A dog named Hi Joe, valued by his owners at around $14,000, was taken from his kennel in London, England. It was thought that the dog was being taken to Scotland to be run in order to earn money for his dognappers as the dog had won all of his last six races.[11] This was Britain's first recorded dognapping.[12] [edit]The dognapping law By the mid-1960s, calls were being made for laws to prevent dognapping. The United States Congress was already working on legislation to restrict the handling and sale of animals for research when a pet Dalmatian was taken in Pennsylvania during June 1965, and ten days later a Dalmatian was reported to have died during experimental heart surgery in a New York hospital. The dog was thought to be the same animal as it was traced to a farm which supplied two Dalmatians to that hospital, but by the time it was discovered that the dogs were delivered directly to the hospital and not the farm, the dog's corpse had been cremated.[13][14] This incident started a series of events which led to Congress discussing the matter.[14] The two senators who led the drive for a new law were Joseph S. Clark and Joseph Resnick.[13] Opponents to the bill argued that very few research animals were stolen, while Clark argued that it was natural to make dognapping a federal crime as it was already illegal to transport stolen cars and cattle across state lines. The American Humane Society presented evidence of dog theft rings in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York; and another witness stated that boys were being paid $2 for each dog they delivered to a dealer.[13] Medical research organisations sought to change the bill by removing references to animals other than cats or dogs, saying that: "It would impose a well-nigh impossible burden to regulate traffic in fish, frogs, turtles, reptiles, birds and the many other mammalian forms used in laboratories."[15] The senate was reported to have received more mail on the dognapping bill than on civil rights or the Vietnam War.[16] During its introduction the bill was known as "The dognapping law"; once introduced, it became the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.