Almost everyone in Karachi has story to tell about a mugging or a burglary. Usually the bandits take away cash, cell phones or any other valuable item that they get hold of, but a new trend is emerging. The thieves are not even sparing the pets.
Reports of dogs being stolen are more common than the theft of cats, according to veterinarians and animal trainers. At least three dogs were stolen in the last month only, with one of the incidents being an armed robbery.
“While incidents such as purse and mobile-snatching are increasing, the kidnapping of pets is also increasing,” said Dr Isma Gheewala, a veterinarian who runs a clinic in the Badar Commercial area. She says that the stolen animals are rarely found, despite the heavy rewards offered by their owners.
Gheewala says animal stealing is getting very common and happens in different ways. “Sometimes when an owner or a servant takes the dog for a walk, men on a motorcycle or in a car snatch the pet from the person on gunpoint,” she said.
“When it comes to cats, they have a habit of sitting atop walls when left outside and usually get stolen like that.”
The veterinarian added that at least six to eight posters of missing and stolen animals are pasted in her clinic at any given time.
More than just a pet
Manoj Chohan, a dog trainer and the owner of PetSmart, says that animal snatchings have become frighteningly common. He has been a victim himself. “Four armed men, all aged above 50, came in my store and took away cash and other valuables. They also got away with a German Shepherd, a mastiff and a Pekinese. All pups,” Chohan told The Express Tribune.
He said he had registered an FIR with the police and also managed to get senior officers involved in the case, but they weren’t able to recover any of the animals.
“Some owners have such deep emotional attachments with their pets that they offer more reward than what their pets are actually worth,” Chohan said, mentioning a recent case when an emotionally-distraught owner upped the reward money for his stolen Labrador by Rs10,000 almost every week after it went missing.
Gheewala thinks that going to the police in such cases is a tough ask. “I really don’t think the police are going to look around for these animals,” she said. “With the amount of violence and the serious crimes that take place in this city, you’re likely to have more luck with a reward offer than registering an FIR.”
Breeds and Prices
The animal thieves usually take the easy route when it comes to stealing a dog. They single out the breeds that don’t tend to be ferocious or aggressive and are easily manageable. This puts the smaller breeds like pugs, terriers, Pekinese and friendly dogs like Labradors at a greater risk. Pups are the easiest targets and also the most lucrative for the thieves.
“It’s only what can be picked up easily and sold readily, “said Ahmed Virk, who deals in pedigreed dogs.
He said that pedigreed Labradors can fetch a price between Rs50,000 and Rs150,000, but when someone spends this kind of money, they also want the pedigree certificate from a reputed breeder and a variety of puppies. “The [black] market is only for the people who don’t really know what they are buying,” said Virk.
Dog trainer Chohan says that the tell-tale sign of a stolen dog is the person selling it. “Many of the stolen dogs are sold privately or at the Empress Market or even gifted,” he said.
According to both Chohan and Virk, the fact that a stolen Rs150,000 Labrador or Rs50,000 Yorkshire Terrier will not fetch more than Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 in the market without its pedigree certificate.
However, selling a dog for this much is probably more lucrative for the thieves than selling snatched cell phones.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
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