NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It is a trend that is happening all over the country, including in our area — dog thefts are on the rise.

Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club said thefts of dogs nationwide has increased every year since 2008. The thefts surged from 71 in 2008 to 162 in 2009 and 211 so far this year.

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“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of pets taken across the country,” Peterson told CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport.

“It’s scary. It is scary. I don’t know why people are stealing dogs,” dog owner Vanessa Morel said.

“I mean I can’t imagine anyone taking our dog like that,” owner Cheryl Tatenbaum said.

Rapoport reported that New York ranked among the top 10 in dog thefts and the American Kennel Club said pure breeds are the dogs most at risk, including Yorkies, Pomeranians, bull dogs and beagles.

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So what is the motivation behind many of the thefts?

Peterson explained that people think “they can make money off of stealing [the] pets.”

“Others think that they can hold them for ransom. Some people just steal pets because they want to give them as gifts and can’t afford them,” Peterson said.

Peterson said to protect pets, owners should always keep dogs on a leash and refrain from leaving them unattended in a car or backyard.

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“It’s like having a kid — constant supervision,” dog walker Shawn Morgan said.