Years ago when I moved from the big city to the suburbs I would take my dog everywhere around the pleasant little town where we had relocated.
Stop at the store? Sure. Just tie the dog's leash to a lamp post or parking meter and go in and run your errands. The worst that might happen is he might have to use the bathroom or some little kid might try to play with the overly friendly pooch.
Fast forward 25 years and I wouldn't even consider tethering an unattended dog. Neither should you.
While many businesses, especially outdoor cafes, have become more dog friendly, the world in general has not.
"We are getting reports almost daily of pets stolen during home invasions, out of parked cars while people are running errands and even snatched from dog lovers out for a walk in the park, " American Kennel Club spokesperson Lisa Peterson said. "Fortunately, we have also seen recoveries of stolen pets because of their microchips, which permanently identify them with their owners. A simple scan at the shelter or vet's office and the true identity of the real owner can be found by calling the pet recovery service."
The problem of petnapping has been getting worse as the economy struggles. About 224 pets were reported stolen in the first seven months of the year compared to 150 in the same period in 2010, the AKC Companion Animal Recovery National Pet Theft Database indicates. The New York-based group received 162 reports of stolen pets for all of 2009.
"We've even seen a new trend of dogs being stolen from shelters and adoption events for the first time this year," Peterson said. She said some criminals will steal a pet for a ransom or reward while others plan to keep or resell them.
The AKC now advises that even dogs known and familiar to folks in the neighborhood be kept on the leash and not left unattended outside.
Two small dogs recently disappeared from a fenced-in yard in my town leaving their elderly owner emotionally devastated. Two pit bulls were stolen in my old city neighborhood. In another theft, an expensive pedigreed pup was taken out of a pet store under the thief's coat. The young man was caught red-handed on video and the dog was later recovered by police.
Stolen larger breeds often end up in the hands of dog fighters where they suffer abuse. Smaller dogs can end up in laboratories.
The AKC advises people -- not dogs -- to be wary of strangers who approach to admire your dog during walks. Don't answer questions about how much the dog is worth or tell the person where you live.
Of course, the AKC warns against leaving an unattended dog inside a car any time or tying up a dog outside a store. If you can't patronize a dog-friendly retailer leave the dog home.
The organization also says people should not purchase dogs on the Internet, at flea markets or from roadside stands where it's impossible to verify the dog's origins.
A reputable breeder or rescue group will be able to produce registration papers or the AKC Litter Registration Number for a purebred puppy.
In Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn last week signed a law requiring animal shelters and animal control facilities to scan all dogs and cats for mircochips and to examine them twice for any other form or identification when they are taken in and before they are transferred, adopted or euthanized.
The idea is to identify lost pets and reunite them with their owners or find abandoned pets new homes. Animal welfare groups that already check pets for microchips say the law may help.
"I'm glad the law is now on the books," Emily Klehm of the South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, Ill., told the suburban weekly Southtown Star. "Because it's a way to enforce it. Maybe there will be financial help for those shelters that can't afford scanners."
Make sure a microchipped pet is registered with one of the largest databases -- Avid, Home Again and 24PetWatchMicrochip.
The California state House takes up a bill this month that would make it mandatory for all dogs and cats adopted or claimed from a shelter to have a microchip.
The measure easily passed the state Senate 32-6, and if passed by the Legislature, would be a first in the nation.
A similar law requiring pets be implanted with a microchip failed in New York state.
The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and stores a unique radio frequency number that is read by a scanner. It costs as little as $15 to microchip a pet and register the pet's contact information.
Odds and Ends
Plastic surgery: Petplan, the largest pet insurer in the United Kingdom, tells The Daily Telegraph it paid nearly $2.5 million for plastic surgery for pets last year.
Most of the claims were for eye-lid lifts for young dogs or dental work.
"So-called plastic surgery is something we have to do regularly to improve the quality of lives in the pets we see as well and repair injuries and deformities," veterinarian Brian Faulkner told the British newspaper. "For example, face lifts are commonly required in breeds with excessively drooping eyelids, skin graft for wounds, soft palate trimming in short faced breeds."
Green space: As the size of urban and suburban green space shrinks, more pet owners in Australia are designing pet friendly areas outside.
"People are finding smarter ways to use their outdoor space, " Matthew Carroll, of Nursery and Garden Industry Australia told The Brisbane Herald Sun, "from dwarf fruit and vegetables for smaller spaces, to growing their gardens up against walls and on rooftops."
Carroll says with the quarter-acre suburban lot rapidly becoming history, more pet owners want dedicated grassy or woodchip-filled areas for their dogs, especially puppies, to keep the animals out of garden beds and away from plants.
A dog run is great but it really helps to live near a park.