Most rescues and shelters monitor their books closely. Not just their financials, but the numbers they deal with daily; numbers covering intakes and adoptions, lost and found reports, medical cases, peak seasons, etc.

Typically these internal audits are to find best practices to make the organizations more efficient and monitor trends. Doing so helps to plan for the following year’s budget.

President of the Caruthersville Humane Society, Karol Wilcox, frequently audits the books at her shelter and over the past several months she’s noticed a growing trend.

When she compared the number of dogs being reported lost or stolen, to the number of dogs found or returned, she saw a rapidly growing gap in numbers. That gap was in the small dog category.

Wilcox says it’s not just pets being reported to the shelter and local authorities. She frequently monitors lost and found pet pages on Facebook and says the number of small dogs she sees missing , just disappearing and never being seen again has increased incredibly.

According to Wilcox, local authorities are aware of the issue and looking into it. “It’s been a phenomenon that hasn’t gone unnoticed,” said Wilcox. “These animals are not all just wandering off, running stray, and dying. There is no trace of them. It’s just very odd that the vast majority of them are small breeds.”


Where are these animals all going?

Missouri’s Bootheel is well known for its Pit Bull bans and dog fighting rings, all in the same breath.

A sudden loss of so many dogs in one area, just disappearing into thin air, lead some people to cry foul believing that area pets are being picked up for bait in the fighting rings.

Wilcox doesn’t think that is the case.

“The vast majority of missing dogs, not finding their way home, are small dogs. Toy breeds too small to be of any use for anything like baiting in a dog fight,” said Wilcox. “It’s possible, but these aren’t the types of animals dog fighters would use for bait.”

In the past dog-nappers were known for clearing out whole neighborhoods- picking up any animal they could get their hands on to sell to testing labs. But dog-nappers aren’t typically picky about what kind of animal they picked up. They are in it for the quantity since labs pay per animal, regardless of breed or size. Dog-nappers are not beyond going into back yards and actually stealing pets.

While neighborhood sweeps by dog nappers scooping up lab animals is still happening, and certainly dog fighters still seek out bait animals to train their dogs, the new trend, the real money maker, is pet flipping. By new, I mean having grown in popularity over the past decade.

Pet flippers, like dog-nappers, will steal your pets. They also get on social media, stalk pet pages, and scoop up every pet they can find to make a buck of off. Some have been known to go as far as to stalk your home, wait for you to be away, and steal your pet right out of your yard. They frequently eyeball areas where pets are seen running free and are easy targets.

But unlike plain old dog-nappers, pet flippers usually go after pure breeds, specific breeds, and yes, small dogs. 

Wilcox thinks that this may be what is occurring all around her shelter in the Missouri Bootheel.

“We live in a poverty stricken area. There are people who are going to do what they can to make money. When they know they can sell a Chihuahua [or other small dog] on the internet for $50, $100, or more, and they go past a house everyday that lets their little dog out to potty, un-tethered, unsupervised, well they might just be inclined to snatch that little bitty dog right up and be along their way and no one is ever the wiser. Easy money, ” said Wilcox. “And people around here are making it really easy for that to happen.”


What can do to protect their pets?

“There are several things you can do to make sure your pets don’t get stolen or run off. The big one would be just supervising your animals and stop letting them roam,” says Wilcox.

She says she sees it happening daily.

“That makes them an easy target for bad humans and bigger animals. It makes it real easy for them to run off and get lost, or worse.”

Other things pet owners can do to help get their pets back home should they be lost or stolen are as follows:

  • Have your pet microchipped. That way, if your pet is found, you have something to prove ownership.
  • If you have a fenced area that you allow your pet out in, unsupervised, make sure it has a secure lock on all entries.
  • Keep current vet records for your pet at home.
  • Have at least one good picture of your pet that shows identifying markings. Several pictures are preferred but having one will usually work. Ask your pet to put a picture of your pet(s) in their vet records.
  • If you see anyone other than local authorities picking up animals, get a license plate number and call the police.


What should you do if you pet goes missing?

If your pet goes missing, the very first thing to do is call your local animal shelter, city animal pound and/or police, and local veterinarians to make a missing pet report.

Animal shelters and rescues will often share your pet’s image and description on their social media pages to get people on the look out for your pet.

Post your pet’s picture and description on local social media page for pets lost and found. If you do not use social media, find someone who does and have them share your pet’s picture. Social media has been proven to bring more animals back home than ever before.

Wilcox warns the residents of Hayti and surrounding communities to keep an eye on there pets.

“We believe we have an issue around here, and we are looking into it, but we need everyone to do their part.”



Caruthersville Humane Society is located in Hayti, Mo. It is a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter.