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TheRockies.Life Staff

Dixie’s Story: Fighting Back Against Dog Theft 

A new non-profit aims to change laws around pet abduction, believing that the 50 dogs stolen since November are more than just property; they are family

Everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend. 

When our dogs go missing, it opens a wound that can’t be healed until our pup is found.

Aynsley with her dog Dixie, who was stolen in November 2023 | CBC News

For Aynsley Foss, that day never came. Her dog Dixie went missing in November 2023 from a farm north of Cochrane. 

Dixie, a three-year-old Maremma sheepdog, worked as a livestock guardian. To this day, Foss believes her dog was stolen.

According to Foss, Dixie’s Air Tag was located 15 minutes from the farm and was found in a ditch. Foss also recalls hearing voices outside that day, which is uncommon for the private road she lives on.

“Her AirTag was discarded just north of Cochrane. It needed to be weaved through her collar, and there’s no physical way it could have just come off,” Foss told CBC News.

While Foss was doing chores, she believes Dixie was baited out by the culprits and stolen.

As TheRockies.Life reported, Foss went to great lengths to find Dixie. She contacted every veterinary clinic in Alberta and rescue groups in Western Canada. 

She also filed a report with the Alberta RCMP, who investigated Dixie’s abduction as “property theft.” But dogs, let alone pets, aren’t just property; they are family. 

DNA samples from Dixie’s Air Tag turned up nothing. Desperate to find her dog, Foss was running out of options.

She knocked on hundreds of doors and handed out over 3,000 posters. Foss even flew in her neighbour’s helicopter and searched the area with drones. 

The community sent Foss hundreds of photos of white dogs online. There were two that looked like Dixie, but she knew they weren’t her best friend. 

Tragedy On The Rise

Dixie was never found. The abduction of her best friend inspired Foss to create the Alberta Abducted Dogs Welfare Association

A poster distributed by Aynsley to find Dixie | CBC News

The Association focuses on three pillars. One pillar includes an investigative unit comprising current and former police officers.

The second pillar provides resources to victims to help those who have had their dog abducted. 

The last pillar involves government, public, and media relations to change laws around pet abduction.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, stolen dogs are treated as theft under $5,000. The Association wants to see more severe penalties for pet theft. 

“People need to be held accountable when they are stealing someone’s animal because it is a lot different than stealing a couch or a TV. You’re stealing a piece of someone’s family,” Erin Deems, AADWA member and Executive Director of Saving Grace Animal Society, told CTV News.

For example, the United Kingdom introduced a pet abduction bill that could send thieves to prison for up to five years. 

“So, we are trying to amend laws…where pets are not recognized as property, they’re recognized as living beings, and we are hoping to do some regulatory overhaul in that aspect,” said Foss. 

Unless there are stricter penalties, pet thefts will keep increasing. 

The Association conducted an independent investigation that revealed that more than 50 dogs were stolen since Dixie’s abduction in November of last year. 

One stolen dog was found but was poisoned and died. According to Gina Slaney, a spokesperson for Alberta RCMP’s southern district, it’s unclear why dog thefts are on the rise. 

She claims there is currently no indication of puppy mills or dog fighting rings in southern Alberta but they have been documented in the past.

Pet Awareness Day

Pet Awareness Day was on February 14. 

The Association spent the day educating the community on ways to keep their pets safe from theft. 

One of the best ways to protect your dog is to treat them like toddlers and never let them out of sight. 

Treating a pet like a toddler might sound extreme, but some pets, such as dogs, reach emotional maturity around one to one and a half years old.

At that age, dogs have the emotional capacity and intelligence of a two to three-year-old human child. 

Thieves use this to their advantage and use food or treats to lure dogs away from their property and abduct them. 

To prevent theft, dog owners should ensure their yard is secure and enclosed and check their property for signs of bait. 

Dog owners should also check for any markings on their property. Thieves mark homes with paint or chalk to show which properties have dogs worth stealing. 

The thieves return later to abduct the dog. Neutering or spaying your dog makes them less desirable to thieves looking to sell them to a puppy mill. 

One of the best ways to protect your best friend is to have them microchipped, which is like a SIN for your dogs. 

Having an extra pair of eyes watching your dogs is always a good idea, like a trustworthy neighbour who can report anything suspicious. 

If your dog or pet is stolen, immediately report it to the authorities. If you are turned away, Foss recommends speaking with a higher-up. 

Mistreated dogs at a puppy mill in Canada | Animal Justice
In 2015, Humane Society International (HSI) and the Government of Quebec seized approximately ninety dogs from a puppy mill in the Estrie region of Quebec, Canada. The dogs had matted fur and were living in filthy cages. Some had untreated injuries and illnesses. HSI sheltered the dogs and adopted them into new homes. The owner was prosecuted for animal cruelty | Animal Justice

Puppy Mills & Fighting Rings

The future awaiting stolen dogs is not pretty. Most often, abducted dogs end up in puppy mills or dog fighting rings, where they are severely abused. 

Puppy mills are commercial farms for dogs. Stolen dogs are forced to breed in filthy conditions without access to veterinary care. 

Puppy mills are inhumane but not banned in Alberta and go overlooked. 

In 2019, more than 70 dogs were seized from a puppy mill in Edmonton.

“Officers, when they walked in, there was the stench of urine in the air, and feces that was fairly overwhelming even for a human to inhale,” Scott Pattison, a spokesperson for Edmonton police, told CBC News

Dogs sent to fighting rings are often used as bait dogs, basically punching bags for fighting dogs.

Dog fighters use bait dogs to let their fighting dogs practice harming another dog without being hurt.

Such a cruel reality is not something a dog should have to live through. Dogs are family and should be treated as such.

Associations like Foss’s are working hard to create a future where pet owners don’t have to live in fear of losing their dog. 

A bait dog who lost half her face to brutal dogfights | Newsweek
A bait dog who lost half her face to brutal dogfights | Newsweek

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