'They are traumatized': Florida woman's dog stolen, shaved while in fenced backyard

Dog thieves are finding new ways to hide stolen pets from their owners leaving lasting damage to families and their furry friends.

A homeowner in Palm Bay says she left her dogs in her fenced-in backyard for just for a few minutes. They disappeared in the blink of an eye, and when she found them – one of her dogs wasn’t the same. Cindy Huckeby believes her dog was stolen and shaved.

"It just breaks my heart because I can’t explain to him what happened or why it happened," Huckeby said.

When she realized her dogs were gone, she scoured the neighborhood for 5+ hours. When she found her missing dog, Bailey, she couldn’t believe how he looked.

"He jumped in the car, and that’s when I saw that he was shaved from his neck to his tail, and parts of his thighs were shaved," she exclaimed.

Someone shaved her longtime family dog who normally has long, luscious brown hair.

What's even worse: experts say this trend is how thieves are tricking pet owners, hiding stolen dogs in plain sight.

"If you change the appearance of the animal, then you are less likely to get caught. Once you’ve stolen it, you alter its appearance, and then you make money off of it," said Theresa Clifton, the executive director for the Brevard Humane Society.

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The reason behind the crime is that pet owners don't recognize their pets when their pictures are posted online for resale, but canine crooks aren't stopping at shaving dogs. They're changing their color, too.

"There’s now pet-friendly dies, so aside from shaving the pet down, they also can die it a different color," Clifton said.

Over the past few years, pet theft has skyrocketed. It’s up 40% since 2021, according to the American Kennel Club. Thieves are finding new ways to hide the crime.

The top breeds stolen include French bulldog, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Siberian Husky, and Yorkshire Terrier. With this troubling trend, homeowners need to be extra cautious.

"It just takes 32 seconds for them to disappear," Clifton exclaimed.

The Brevard Humane Society says microchipping is the best way to protect your pet. Also, get your pet spayed or neutered, so it's less attractive to thieves. Lastly, make sure you have a working security system.

Bailey is now safe at home, but he's not the same.

"Now, he is very skiddish. He stays back. He sits and lays in the corner, and that’s not like him at all," Huckeby said.

Animal abuse experts say the behavior changes are common and concerning.

"It’s just like people that have been kidnapped. They are traumatized. This pet is traumatized because somebody took it and is doing things to it that is not normal," said Debbie Darino who works tirelessly to prevent animal abuse in Central Florida. She also created Ponce’s Law making animal abuse a felony in the state.

While Bailey heals, Huckeby is more cautious than ever before.

"It does make me very scared. If I had children, I wouldn’t let them go trick or treating around the neighborhood like we did when we were little," she concluded.