French Bulldogs Like Lady Gaga’s Are Frequent Targets for Theft. Here’s Why
French bulldogs are the fourth-most popular dogs in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club, but they're small and easier to steal than other popular breeds
After Lady Gaga's two French bulldogs were stolen Wednesday night in an armed robbery that critically wounded her dog walker, advocates say the breed is frequently stolen.
The dogs are in high demand. Tara Bruno, the founder of SNORT Rescue, an organization that rescues bulldogs and similar breeds, tells PEOPLE French bulldogs from reputable breeders can cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
"The motive is resale. Thieves know they can get a couple thousand dollars for them," says Bruno, who adds that thefts of French bulldogs are "on the rise."
The American Kennel Club lists French bulldogs as the fourth most popular breed in the United States, behind Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherds. But according to Bruno, they are easier to steal than those other popular breeds because they're so small, weighing 28 lbs. or less, according to AKC standards.
Bruno says there's also a large market for dogs in designer coats like blue and merle, mostly from disreputable puppy mills and overseas importers, which can sell for about $10,000.
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Marc Peralta, Chief Program Officer for the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, says you can take several easy steps to avoid the underground market of so-called "backyard breeders" that drives the demand for theft.
One question to ask yourself: Is the breeder meeting you in his or her home, or in a place like a parking lot? "If they're uncomfortable meeting in their home, it's because they're criminals," he tells PEOPLE.
Peralta also recommends you ask for the vet records of the puppy, and also ask to meet the dog's parents. "If those answers are no, be wary," he says.
Also, because puppy mills generally try to sell as many puppies as possible as quickly as possible, Peralta also says you should make sure puppies are at least two months old.
"There are plenty of reputable breeders out there," he says. "Getting a reputable breeder can give you peace of mind that you're not feeding cruelty or criminal activity," he says.
Lady Gaga's dogs were stolen Wednesday night during a robbery at 9:40 p.m. on Sierra Bonita Avenue in Hollywood, during which the male victim was shot and critically wounded.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson tells PEOPLE there is at least one suspect: a male who used a semi-automatic handgun and was seen leaving in a vehicle going northbound toward Hollywood Boulevard. The dogs are still missing.
The LAPD's robbery/homicide division has taken over the case. The name of the victim has not been released by authorities.
A rep for Lady Gaga, who is currently in Italy, confirms the victim was the singer's dog walker and the two dogs were her French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav.