RENO, Nev. -- An alarming trend is happening across the nation; just as someone flips a house for profit, criminals flip a pet for quick money.
Here's what pet-flipping is: criminals get their hands on a dog or cat -- typically by stealing it or answering a "Lost Pet" ad as the fake owner -- and then they "flip" it by selling the pet for a quick profit.
It's heartbreaking for pet owners, but it's also a cause for concern for people looking to buy a dog or cat.
The American Kennel Club says pet theft shot up 31% for 2013 compared to the year before and that stolen pets are reported every single day.
Pet flipping has been seen around the nation, and in several of those instances, the owner discovered their stolen pet on Craigslist, but instead of being advertised as a "found" pet, they would see it advertised for sale.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, report the theft to the police.
There isn't too much information on how strategic pet flippers are, but in some cases, it looks like scammers target dogs very carefully.
Many times, the dogs that disappear are valuable, purebred, and not spayed or neutered.
If, for whatever reason, you do have to give up your pet, Nevada Humane Society staff says it's better NOT to advertise it as "free to a good home" and to ask for a re-homing fee. This can help discourage criminals who are looking to find animals they can quickly resell for fast money.
Here are a few tips to avoid accidentally helping pet flippers.
Don't let your dog off-leash. Thieves can easily steal your pet if it wanders too far away from you...and of course, it's a safety measure that should be taken if your dog is out in public.
Don't leave your dog unattended in the yard. Dogs left outside for long periods of time are vulnerable targets, especially if your yard can be seen from the street.
Be cautious with information. If people approach you and ask about how much your dog cost and where you live, sirens should be going off in your head. Don't answer those questions.
Don't tie your dog outside a store.
Finally, one of the most important tips we can leave you with -- don't buy pets off the internet, at flea markets or in roadside vans. There is simply no way to verify where these dogs or cats have come from, and you have no idea if these animals you're buying are stolen. You would also never be able to find the seller again if there is a problem.
Pet advocates say you should always get your pets spayed or neutered so it can't be used by criminals for breeding, and, of course, it also helps to have them microchipped.
American Kennel Club staff members say the top five AKC-recognized breeds that were stolen in 2013 were:
1. Yorkshire Terrier
3. French bulldog
4. Labrador Retriever
According to AKC, outside of AKC-recognized dogs, pitbulls and pitbull mixes were the most stolen breed.