In March I wrote a post (you can find it here) on Forensic evidence and stolen horses. Today I saw a news bulletin that dog thievery is on the rise; the article (found here) cites a 49% increase in stolen dogs. The hypothesis is that a bad economy is driving thieves to steal valuable dogs, either for their own family use, to collect a Reward offered by the owner, or to sell over the Internet to an unsuspecting buyer.
Dogs aren't the only stolen pet- horse thievery is rampant as well.
The consequences for an owner of a stolen pet is often not only economic (in losing an investment animal, such as a young horse) but also emotionally damaging.
Our family dog Allira was taken earlier this year; she is trusting and loving, and was unfortunately all too eager to jump into a stranger's car. Fortunately a friend of ours noticed this person's "new dog," told us, and we were able to recover her. Poor thing had been put into a concrete kennel (she has never been kenneled before); needless to say, she was overjoyed to come home!
The consequences for a horse thief vary from state to state, and the punishment depends on the value of the property stolen (remember everyone, horses are property under the law), and the amount of property stolen.
In Texas, one of the reigning agricultural law jurisdictions, says in Chapter 31 of the Penal Code that thievery is a "state jail felony" (as opposed to a misdemeanor or death penalty) if:
"(A) the value of the property stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000, or the property is less than 10 head of cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl" (Section 31.03 (e4A))
If the value of the horse is greater than $20,000 then it becomes a Class 3 Felony, and a Class 2 Felony if the horse is valued at more than $100,000. I'm not sure how many of you have horses exceeding that value, but for those Olympic riders or racehorse owners out there, if your horse exceeds $200,000 in value, then the thief will be punished with a first degree felony and its accompanying sentence, among other penalties.
In California, the penalty for horse thievery is analyzed under traditional property theft laws:
In Penal Code Section 487, Grand Theft is defined as stealing property, including:
"(d) When the property taken is any of the following:
(1) An automobile, horse, mare, gelding, any bovine animal, any
caprine animal, mule, jack, jenny, sheep, lamb, hog, sow, boar, gilt,
barrow, or pig..."
The value of the stolen property must be at or above $950 (or for farm crops, including hay, valued at or above $250).
Sometimes Grand Theft is considered a misdemeanor, and other times a felony (fyi, stealing a gun will ALWAYS be a felony).
On top of the misdemeanor or felony penalty (1-3 years in prison, a strike on your record, fines, etc.), there are also enhancements that are added on, for example:
-One year if the amount of the property was worth more than $65,000
-Two years if the amount was worth more than $200,000
-Three years if the amount was worth more than $1,300,000, or
-Four years if the amount was worth more than $3,200,000 (I added this in case some of you have a REALLY great horse!)
Imagine stopping by the barn one morning, looking forward to feeding and watering your horse, and rather than being greeted by a happy nicker, you are faced with an empty stall or paddock.
How do you find your horse?
More importantly, how can you prevent thievery from ever occurring in your stable?
In a related category, I know over the years some of my tack, and that of others, has mysteriously grown legs and disappeared. This happens frequently at shows, when security is low, and there are a lot of people circulating through the show grounds. I always take my tack home at night when stabling away from home.
My prior barn faced a slew of saddle thefts a couple years ago; they were determined to largely be a crime of opportunity: if you leave your saddle out, someone will notice, and there are some people in the world who will be willing to steal your saddle for his or her own profit.
As suggested in the original dog-theft article, keep a current picture of your horse, along with a note all markings and tattoos, so that you can identify your horse to authorities in the event of a theft.
Do you have any other tips to add? Do you know of a horse that was stolen?