FRANKLIN, OH (FOX19) - The American Kennel Club says the economy is truly going to the dogs, as more and more people are stealing pets.
The AKC said dog theft is up 32-percent this year over last. It is a number that frightens breeders such as Kim Woods in Franklin.
It isn't tough to see who runs Woods' backyard: her three-year-old Boxers, Dude and Diva.
The two dogs love running around the backyard, but Woods, who breeds 'Bristols Boxers,' said outside playtime is always supervised
"You don't leave your dogs in the backyard for hours and hours unattended, or you shouldn't anyway," said Woods. "Especially if you're not going to be home. I know some people who have done that and lost their dogs that way."
Those victims aren't alone.
The AKC reports 224 pets have been stolen so far this year. That's up from 150 pets stolen during the same period in 2010.
The AKC says it all boils down to simple economics. The thief can steal a dog, sell it or even hold it for ransom. But families aren't the only victims. Pet stores are being hit hard, too. Experts say toy breeds, puppies, or purebred dogs, such as Dude and Diva, are the most vulnerable.
"If they stopped for a minute and thought, 'I'm taking someone's child,' which for the people who own that dog that's basically how they think of their pets," said Woods. "I couldn't imagine my life without these two."
In most states, the value of an animal determines whether pet theft is a felony or misdemeanor. In Ohio, stealing a dog worth less than $500 would be considered a misdemeanor. Stealing a dog worth more than that would be considered a felony.
The Clermont County Animal Shelter offers a few tips to protect your pets:
1) Keep your pet indoors when you're not home.
2) Properly identify your pet with a collar tag, microchip or tattoo.
3) Be aware of strangers in your neighborhood.
4) Do not tie your pet outside a store while you run inside it..
5) Let your neighbors know about the issue of pet theft.