It’s a case of man’s best friend running afoul of man’s worst fiend. It’s “flipping,” a practice familiar to real estate speculators who buy an apartment in a building that is going co-op at the insider’s price, then sell it for a quick profit. Only in this case, the object being flipped is somebody’s beloved furry friend.
Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR notes that the insidious practice is happening nationwide. The filched animals are being fenced on legitimate websites, such as Craigslist, Facebook, and eBay.
As if losing a pet weren’t traumatic enough, victims who contact the authorities to report a stolen pet are being turned away by police who insist they have more pressing cases to solve. One exception is Indianapolis, where Officer Theresa Redmon devotes her full attention to hunting down and apprehending flippers.
Redmon was able to return an older dog named Stewart to his human family. When Stewart first vanished, Jenelle Carr, his owner, went looking for him, along with her 5-year-old daughter, 9-year-old son, and husband. The family spent nine gut-wrenching days looking for the Chihuahua, but to no avail. It was at this point that Carr surmised that Stewart had been snatched. She switched from searching the streets to surfing the web. She began scouring the web and eventually stumbled on the site Indy Lost Pet Alert.
“Each post gets 6,000 views in the first 10 minutes” said the site’s founder, Danielle Beck. She and five volunteers scour social media sites for lost pets. “They’re trying to compare not only to other lost and found alerts we have, but they’re going through and scouring lost and found websites,” she explained.
Beck and Carr got a break in their combined search for Stewart after posting a picture of the pooch on Indy Lost Pet Alert. Said Carr, “I got a phone call saying they think they’d found Stewart, and he was being flipped.”
The case was turned over to Redmon, who said, “I’m the one with the gun and the badge and I go knocking on doors.”
Some digging on Redmon’s part revealed that Stewart had been flipped twice in the 9 days he was missing. Redmon traced the dog to the address of a woman she now believes to be a serial flipper.
Even though pet flipping is not considered a crime in most jurisdictions, Redmon has found a way to charge the guilty parties. “These animals are being stolen, those are crimes,” she says. Misrepresenting yourself as the pet’s owner is a crime too.
The only problem is that Redmon is overwhelmed with reports of missing pets. She says she could use three to four more full-time officers to keep up with the demand.