NORFOLK, Neb. — The backyard gates were secure, and Jade Beltz couldn't find any spots where her 9-week-old Saint Bernard might have slipped under or through the fence. Beltz couldn't say for certain, but the situation led her to believe her puppy had been stolen.

It's a sad trend that is growing, according to recent statistics from large Midwestern cities. Time magazine recently reported that police departments in cities such as St. Louis and Indianapolis are receiving an increasing number of calls regarding “pet flipping” — the theft and resale of household pets.

The American Kennel Club has reported a sharp rise in dog-napping incidents in recent years as well.

As soon as Beltz discovered her puppy was gone, she filed a police report, went door to door with fliers and began an aggressive social media campaign.

Before long, she received a text message from a stranger in a nearby town, telling her to check her private messages on Facebook. There, she found a photo of her puppy.

Beltz called the police department in the town where the family that now had her puppy lived, but that's where she ran into complications.

“(Their police officer) basically told me that he wanted the Norfolk police to see into it first,” she said. “He couldn't really take my word for it that it was my dog, but I knew I could identify my dog.”

Against the advice of many, Beltz and her boyfriend eventually confronted the family, which gave up the puppy without incident.

Norfolk Police Capt. Michael Bauer said Nebraska law requires that a person who finds an animal or other property take reasonable measures to restore it to the person entitled to have it.

Bauer said notifying law enforcement officers is considered a reasonable measure because they have resources to help identify the owner.

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