A Valley animal rescue is taking steps to protect dogs from being stolen.
Director of "Help a Dog Out" animal rescue, Cece Lopez said dogs missing from their backyards is a disturbing trend she's noticing all over dog owners' Facebook pages.
"About six months ago, I started seeing a pattern. People saying, 'Our gate was left open, but we thought we shut the gate, maybe it was the gardener, or the pool guy left the gate open,'" said Lopez.
The rescue is taking action by collecting and distributing gate locks to all pet owners; an effort called "Locks for Luna" initiated after a dog was reported missing from her backyard.
Lopez said many of the missing dogs appeared to be expensive breeds and pit bulls.
"There's also a lot of dumping grounds. We find dogs that are dumped, hurt, injured, and looking at the injuries, we know it's a bait fight or bait related," said Lopez.
According to the American Kennel Club, the most stolen dog breeds were Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Maltese, Boston Terriers, French bulldogs, Chihuahas, Labradoodles, and American pit bulls.
Some of these dogs sold for as much as $2,000 to $4,000. Thieves saw dollar signs instead of dogs. In the case of the American pit bull, Lopez said their fate was more dismal.
"A lot of them, they're being used in the most horrendous way. They're being stolen to be used to die. They're used as bait dogs," said Lopez.
If you would like to help the "Help a Dog Out" rescue group collect locks for pet owners or take part in their campaign to protect pets, go to https://www.facebook.com/Helpadogoutlopezrescue/
The group is out at the Petsmart on Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo road every Friday and Saturday. The address is 3939 South Arizona Avenue.