So now the American Kennel Club's saying that dog theft's up by 32 percent this year. Apparently their special database recording animal thefts has recorded 224 reports since January 1. That's almost as many thefts recorded in all of 2010 (255, if you're keeping score).

Thieves are stealing dogs from people's homes, cars, yards—wherever the animals roam—in the hopes of selling them and making a profit. "I've even seen some taken out of a child's arms on a park bench," says AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson, who's not exaggerating. Most of the disappeared dogs are pit bulls and other large breeds. As the AKC notes, however, sometimes dognappers pretend to be puppy buyers and nab littler breeds while visiting sellers' homes. (Sometimes the thieves don't pretend anything at all—they just barge into people's homes and snatch the dogs away, as the Case of Yorkshire Bandits teaches us.)

The AKC suggests planting an ID microchip in your dog, not leaving your dog in your car (or tied to a pole somewhere, goodness heavens) while you "just run in and get a few things real quick" at whatever ConsumerMart, and practicing vigilance as effective theft prevention techniques. But really, the best way to make sure nobody takes your dog is to buy a guard dog to watch over it. You can also teach your dog how to use a gun. Then lobby for "safer" laws that allow dogs to carry concealed weapons at dog college, dog church, doggie private school, and other places, so they can better protect themselves.

[Sun-Times, AKC. Image via AP]