Kidnapping people is not all that uncommon in cities such as Tijuana, but dogs? According to dog owners, criminals have shifted from targeting humans to abducting their best friends instead.
Over 30,000 dog owners and animal rights activists are followers of a group on Facebook, Perritos perdidos en Tijuana (Dogs Lost in Tijuana), where reports of stolen canines have seen an increase.
Members of the support group have been organizing search teams while owners have offered rewards of up to 10,000 pesos (US $523) for their lost companions.
Signs are posted online and in the streets of Tijuana, and flyers are distributed in crowded areas around the city.
According to the Facebook group, the breeds sought most by thieves are Schnauzer, English bulldog, Siberian husky, Pomeranian, German shepherd, bull terrier, Chihuahua, pug and Rottweiler.
The criminals target specific neighborhoods, including Cacho, Hipódromo, Playas de Tijuana, Urbi, Altiplano and Altamira.
Group members say thieves keep an eye on rewards posted on the page and claim them, sometimes going as far as blackmailing dog owners and demanding more money.
“Dog thieves are well organized. One watches the house, another one steals the dog while another waits for the owner to post a reward to start the negotiations,” one member said.
Dog owners have refrained from filing formal complaints before local authorities for fear of sparking reprisals from the thieves.
The state Attorney General’s office confirmed it had received no reports of animal theft and extortion.
Still, the law enforcement agency is aware of the criminals’ modus operandi, and said the crime could even be considered a kidnapping.