"The reluctance of many dog owners to install micro chips is hampering the efforts to retrieve the pets that are stolen."

The dognappers, who kidnapped the Labrador of former judge K. Narayana Kurup, was carrying a stolen Rottweiler in an autorickshaw when police personnel lured them to a place near Ambalamedu as prospective buyers.

Even though they initially refused to admit that the popular breed was stolen from a home here, sustained interrogation backed up by the statements extracted from a member of their gang arrested earlier made them finally admit the crime.

Mr. Kurup’s Labrador, whom he fondly referred to as a family member, was later traced from Poochakal near Aroor.

Lucrative business

From pedigree dogs priced between Rs. 3,000 to a whopping Rs. 5 lakh for imported breeds, dog theft seems to be emerging as a lucrative business in the city.

Even though the police do not have exact data on the number of dog thefts in the city, sources in the force as well as dog lovers concur on the fact that dog theft has been rampant in the city for quite long. “Most of these dognappers are crazy about the animal and they know how to handle them. Unless they are professionally trained, which is very rare, the dogs are easy to handle. These guys can very well handle breeds like Labrador or Dalmatian, which are companion dogs,” said P.M. Varghese, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch (Economic Offences), who owns three Rottweilers.

A professional training will require continuous training of the animal for nine months, whereas the majority of the owners prefer to have their pets trained for obeying basic commands. Another issue is the absence of proper mechanism to track down the stolen dogs. The reluctance of many dog owners to install micro chips is hampering the efforts to retrieve the pets that are stolen, said Richard S. Luiz, honorary secretary of Cochin Canine Club. “Microchips will help in finding out the details of the real owner. Even though many feel that the process of installing the chips was a painful one, it is actually harmless and could be done professionally by veterinarians,” he said.

Dileep Kumar of Petsmall said that they tried in vain some three or four years ago to trace a bull dog that went missing from one of their customer’s custody. Bull dogs were a rarity then.

Checking bona fides

Reminding buyers that they need to check whether the seller has papers related to the Kennel Club of India registration for dogs, Mr. Luiz said that they should also be careful whether the seller is showing them counterfeit papers in a bid to prove their credibility.

Other than the Kennel Club registration, dog owners keep a certificate which features the dog’s photo, name, identification marks and colour. This certificate, which is attested by a veterinary doctor, will also have the vaccination and immunisation schedule and details. But none of these could be produced as an evidence for staking claim to the dog, said M.N. Ramesh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Muvattupuzha, who owns a German Shepherd.

Police officials said dognappers have skills to tame pedigree dogs. They will be keeping track of the dog and its movements within a house for several days before stealing it. Even a dog like Great Dane could be easily handled in this manner. But pet shop owners said dognappers mostly prefer female dogs, if they are going for adults, for breeding, or else they target puppies.

The Rottweiler that was retrieved from the accused who stole Mr. Kurup’s Labrador belonged to another prominent personality in the city. As he refused to lodge a complaint or register a case, now that the pet has been returned, the police preferred to keep in identity under cover.

But the situation has become so tricky that Mr. Kurup, though in a lighter vein, said that he was now forced to appoint a security man to guard his Labrador.

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