National News

French bulldog owners on edge as violent dognapping incidents rise

todayFebruary 14, 2024


Courtesy of Ali Zacharias/Teffiney Worthy

(LOS ANGELES) — Ali Zacharias said she has such a bond with her French bulldog Onyx that she went to extremes when the 1-year-old pup was snatched last month.

Zacharias told “Nightline” that she was completely caught off guard when the dognapper allegedly took Onyx while Zacharias was eating lunch in downtown Los Angeles and put the bulldog in a car. But at that moment, which was caught on camera and went viral, she said she went into guardian mode and chased after the alleged thief.

“I ran in front of the car. I just sort of grab onto the windshield wipers and I just decide to [be] like, ‘Hold on, you’re not driving anywhere,'” she said. “I just didn’t expect to be in the fight mode like Indiana Jones.”

Zacharias is recovering from injuries after she was flung from the suspect’s car. A woman was arrested last week in connection with the dognapping, but Onyx’s whereabouts remain a mystery.

“They must be desperate, and I feel for them, but if I don’t get this dog back I’m going to be so upset,” Zacharias said.

Her ordeal has become part of a growing list of nightmare stories that many dog owners across the country are fearing as the number of dognappings of expensive French bulldogs has skyrocketed.

The crimes are leaving many dog owners on edge fearing they could be next.

Tom Sharp, the CEO of American Kennel Club Reunite, told “Nightline” that owner-reported dognappings to his nonprofit have risen 140% since 2020.

“In 2023, twice as many French bulldogs were reported stolen to us as the next breed,” Sharp said.

“Frenchies” have become more popular among pet owners over the last couple of years. In 2022, they nudged out Labradors to become the country’s top favorite breed, according to data from the American Kennel Club.

The dogs have been popular among celebrities and have even become influencers on social media.

Sharp noted that French bulldogs can carry a higher price tag than other breeds.

“So a bulldog puppy can go anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 to try to buy one. And that’s beyond a lot of people’s means, yet they still want one,” he said.

Several factors behind their cost: most female French bulldogs need artificial insemination and cesarean sections to have puppies. And the average litter produces just three pups, which is typically fewer than other breeds.

Law enforcement experts say the pricey pups can fetch top dollar when they’re resold or when a ransom is paid by desperate owners.

In 2021, a man shot Lady Gaga’s dogwalker and stole two of her French bulldogs in Los Angeles. James Howard Jackson pleaded guilty a year later and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

The dogwalker survived the shooting nad has been recuperating from his injuries. The dogs were returned to Lady Gaga.

Teffiney Worthy of Washington, D.C., recalled the terror she faced last November when a man holding a Taser demanded she give up her Frenchie, Hendrix.

“He left on his way down the stairs and put [Hendrix], in the backseat,” Worthy told “Nightline.” “He was just laughing and drove away.”

Worthy turned to social media for help and, two days later, she received a message on Instagram from a woman who claimed she bought Hendrix for $900.

D.C. Metro Police and a private investigator helped her coordinate Hendrix’s safe return home. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

Sharp said there are steps that Frenchie owners can take to protect themselves, including getting a microchip for their pets that contain the owner’s information and not taking them outside without strict supervision.

He emphasized that owners should also be wary about the information they put on social media about their dogs.

“[If] you say, ‘Hey, I’ll be at the park at 2:00 today with my beautiful little French bulldog puppy,’ you’re almost inviting strangers to take that dog from you,” Sharp said.

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