Chihuahuas – the diminutive dogs popular for their portability, lack of shedding and minimal drooling – were the most commonly stolen breed in Belgium last year.
Their popularity among thieves has been highlighted by recently released statistics from DogID, Belgium's official registry of dogs and their owners. Of the 305 dogs reported stolen in 2021, 20% (63) were chihuahuas, reported Dernière Heure.
This is likely to do with the high demand for the breed: in 2021, chihuahuas were also the most registered dog in the country and pure-breds can fetch €3,000 to €4,000 from legal breeders.
The miniature dogs typically stand 12.5 – 20cm tall, weigh up to 2.7kg, and live for between 14 and 16 years, according to American Kennel Club (AKC). Size, however, doesn't matter when talking about dog thefts. The much larger American Stafford, also known as pitbull, tied with French bulldogs for the second most stolen breed – 20 of each stolen in 2021. Labradors and huskies are also featured on the list.
Investigators place dog thefts into three categories. First, when a person wants to own a dog but can't afford one; shelters tell of prospective animal adopters coming to visit a dog and simply walking off with it. It is also not uncommon that when a couple splits, one takes revenge by stealing the dog from an estranged spouse or ex-partner.
In both of these instances, investigators say there's a good chance of recovering the dog. However, much more challenging is when organised gangs steal dogs and quickly sell them on. In this case, the chances of recovering the dog are slim.
"There are networks of thieves who are extremely well organised and manage to resell the animal directly abroad or on the Internet. Even if the animal is chipped, it is almost never found," Jonathan Hoorens, a detective specializing in the disappearance of animals, told Dernière Heure.