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Pets Q&A; Dog thefts are on the rise

Q: What is this “dog flipping” thing in the news all about? – S.J., Henderson, Nev.

Q: I’ve seen TV reports about people stealing dogs and putting them on Craigslist. It’s scary. What can I do to prevent this? – H.W., Chicago

A: Dog-flipping is a new twist on dog-snatching. Dogs are stolen, given a new identity, then put up for sale, or “flipped,” on Internet sites like Craigslist.

According to the American Kennel Club, thefts are on the rise, increasing nearly 30 percent between January and May compared with a year ago. Of course, stealing dogs is illegal, but proving a dog was stolen and didn’t run off is nearly impossible (unless there’s a witness to a theft who comes forward).

If the dog is quickly resold, the original owner might never find out where the pet ended up. The only way to truly prove that a dog is yours is to microchip. Equally as important is to register the information and make sure the microchip provider’s database is always current.

Of course, the best deterrent is to never leave your dog in the yard without adult supervision, and never tie up your dog in front of a store, even if you’re going inside for only a short time.

Learn more about microchipping at


Q: My friend adopted a kitten off the street. Socks will sometimes become very still, squint her eyes, stalk and attack my friend, even biting so hard that it bleeds. Sometimes she’ll even bite my friend’s face. My friend has used a water bottle to squirt the cat, which sometimes works, as it does keep her off counters. Socks used to sleep with my friend, but now hides in the basement at night. My friend is terrified. Can you shed any light on what’s going on here? – V.M., Cyberspace

A: “Cats, especially kittens, love to stalk and pounce; it’s what they do,” says cat veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, of Chico, Calif. “Cats who may not have had the advantage of their mother and littermates as teachers may not know not to bite down so hard. It’s important that your friend play with her cat using an interactive toy (such as fishing pole-type toy with feathers). You should never use your hands or feet as play objects, even with young kittens.”

Your friend is already familiar with some of the cues, such as stalking and squinting; others include tail flashing, a cat’s ears rotating back, the cat crouching. The instant she sees any of these, she should toss a toy (a squeaky mouse toy or a toy that moves, like a little ball) in one direction for the cat to chase, while she slowly walks off in another direction. She should keep toys in her pocket so she’s always ready.

As for the cat biting at your friend’s face, I’m not sure what’s going on, but she needs to prevent the cat from having that opportunity.

Colleran, the American Association of Feline Practitioners spokeswoman for Cat Friendly Practices, is somewhat concerned that the cat hides overnight, and wonders why. She also wonders if perhaps your friend is being more punitive toward her cat than simply squirting water. She may be doing something as simple as screaming at the cat for harming her (which is understandable) and also squirting the water. As a result, the cat has associated the unpleasant experience with the owner. Since hiding is a new behavior, Colleran also wonders if there’s a medical explanation, so seeing your veterinarian makes sense.

Steve Dale welcomes questions from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to Include your name, city and state.

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