Bogus Trend Story? Dog-Nappings 'Increase' In San Francisco.

Categories: Crime, Media
Your collie or your life...
A KTVU news segment recently tugged at the heartstrings with the title "Heartbroken SF Family Searching for Stolen Dog." The story recounted the travails of the Gaffney family, whose dog, JoJo, was just filched while he was tied up outside the Safeway on Market and Church.

The story certainly is heartbreaking enough -- though SF Weekly has learned that JoJo has since been found in Marin and reunited with the Gaffneys. But what caught our attention was the lead on KTVU's Web article -- but not on the television report -- that San Francisco police claim dog thefts are on the uptick. When we called the police, they said they have no statistics to back up that claim. The SFPD is processing SF Weekly's immediate disclosure request for all statistics regarding animal thefts in San Francisco. KTVU's claim that dog thefts are on the rise may well be accurate -- but the officers we spoke with in the public information office have no idea who gave out that information or what statistics they were basing that statement on.

Things grow even more complicated when you begin to parse what the word "theft" means. When we dialed San Francisco's Animal Care and Control office, we were told that if someone takes an unattended dog from the front of, say, the Safeway on Market and Church, and then calls Animal Control to report a "found" animal, this is not considered a "theft." In order for theft to have occurred, someone ostensibly would have to remove the animal from your home, yard, or vehicle.

So, if anything, the takeaway from this incident -- other than bizarre questions relating to the Gaffney family reaching out to a "pet tracker" and even a "pet psychic" -- is this: If you own a dog sweet enough to walk away with a stranger, a stranger may walk away with it. So take precautions.

What's more, there seems to be little reason for a dog owner to risk theft by tying up an animal outside of a supermarket. Walking a dog into a supermarket is hardly an outlandish occurence here in the city. Even dogs later deemed "vicious and dangerous" animals by the city have been walked into the very Safeway JoJo was stolen from.

It may not be strictly "legal," but, then, neither is "theft." Unless, of course, it's not "theft" ... 

Update, 4:45 p.m.: Lieutenant Le-Ellis Brown of San Francisco Animal Control returned our call. He says there have been more dog thefts reported to Animal Control in the last month -- but this is no crime wave. "In the last month, I'd say three. Generally, we hear about none to one," he says. Stealing dogs, he says, "is not the hot new thing."

Brown said he believes that taking someone else's dog from a public place would constitute theft -- unless, of course, an Animal Control officer or cop did it (Of course, determining what "theft" is isn't Animal Control's responsibility, either). On the other hand, he adds, not only is tying your dog up and leaving it unattended a bad idea, it's also against the law.

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