NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dogs are being stolen out of cars, yards, off sidewalks and even out of shelters at an alarming rate, according to the American Kennel Club.
"It only takes a minute for a theft to occur," American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson told CBS 2's Dave Carlin on Friday.
Making any pet owner think twice is surveillance video from last week that showed "Marley" the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel being menaced by a stranger, who picked up the frightened dog and walked off with him, leaving 7-year-old Mia Bendrat heartbroken the day before Christmas.
"You knew that was somebody's dog and it was Christmas Eve. I mean really?" Bendrat said.
Marley was sold to a woman in Greenwich Village, who thought the situation was fishy.
Marley was checked for a microchip and Mia and her best friend were reunited.
But happy endings are rare as dognapping cases rise nationwide by almost 70 percent, according to the American Kennel Club.
"Last year for example we tracked more than 432 pet thefts and that's just scratching the surface," Peterson said. "For the first time ever we've seen a trend now where shelters are being broken into and purebred and mixed breed dogs are being stolen."
Dognappings from stores, shelters and backyards and off sidewalks are preventable.
Experts say to safeguard your pet as you would a child.
"Don't leave it unattended," Peterson said.
There are products available so you don't let your pet out of your sight.
The American Kennel Club recommends doing anything you can do, but most importantly to get your pet microchipped.
"Because that's the only way you can prove ownership and get your dog back should it turn up at a vets office or shelter," Peterson said.
And if you are running errands, experts advise keeping your pets home to stop making things so easy for a new breed of criminals.
The American Kennel Club tracked 432 pet thefts in 2011, compared to 255 thefts in 2010.
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