Jolie Rose, a one-year-old French bulldog, was a common sight as she lounged on her owner’s patio along the Balboa Peninsula beach, eager to greet anyone who stopped by.
At the end of March, someone removed Jolie Rose from the terrace, leaving her owners distraught and looking for help to get her back. They offered a $5,000 reward, no questions asked.
“(Jolie Rose) is quasi-famous in the neighborhood,” said its owner, Tracy Winkelman. “She used to roam freely around our terrace, but we won’t anymore.
“We live in a nice place where I rarely closed my doors, but not anymore.”
Winkelman was lucky. Almost a week after the dog was picked up, someone dropped her off outside the Newport Beach police station. No one claimed the reward.
French bulldogs are in high demand and rare. As of 2020, they’re second only to Labrador Retrievers, the No. 1 for decades among the American Kennel Club’s most popular dog breeds.
“They don’t have large litters like some other breeds, which limits their offering,” said American Kennel Club spokesperson Brandi Hunter Munden. “It takes a lot of work to help a litter and responsible breeders focus on taking every precaution to ensure that mother and puppies are healthy.”
The cost of a French Bulldog can vary between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on where it is purchased, whether from an ethical breeder or a puppy mill, with mills generally offering lower costs for dogs that have been bred improperly and have underlying health conditions. .
The Dognappers have found a lucrative business reselling them and reducing the price, said spcaLA president Madeline Bernstein.
“French bulldogs are adorable; they are friendly, wearable and held by many celebrities,” Bernstein said. “People want to carry around a French Bulldog in their designer handbag.
“But it’s like wearing a giant diamond on your hand,” she said.
In Garden Grove, Darlene Burton’s 11-month-old French bulldog, Brioche, was also removed from her garden in late March. A motion sensor camera captured a man reaching his fence, grabbing Brioche and putting him in a backpack before leaving.
“I had been back inside for five minutes to get some water for the Brita and noticed it was eerily quiet,” Burton said. “Brioche is usually a noisy dog, you can hear him sniff and run his paws on the sidewalk.”
Burton put up flyers in his neighborhood and shared social media posts offering a $5,000 reward for Brioche’s safe return. The next day, she received a tip from a resident that a man had tried to sell the dog for $200 at a park near her neighborhood, but released him after failing.
A Good Samaritan, also a dog owner, then saw the dog wandering down the street.
“I get a text with a photo of Brioche and ‘I found your dog,'” Burton said.
The next day, Burton met the man and Brioche was back in his arms. Although Burton said she offered the reward, the man refused to take it.
There have been several reports of French bulldogs being snatched from the streets in Los Angeles. The most publicized happened in March 2021, when Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and two of the singer’s French bulldogs were stolen from Hollywood. Police say the suspects weren’t targeting her and didn’t even know they were her dogs, but stole them due to the breed’s high resale value.
The singer offered a reward of $500,000. The dogs were later returned, although the woman who claimed to have found them was later arrested when authorities discovered she was in a relationship with one of the suspects who had stolen the dogs.
While offering a reward is common practice for returning lost pets, Bernstein said owners should be wary of the amount shown on the reward poster, so as not to attract scammers claiming to have the dog so that they can get the money back.
In the days leading up to Jolie Rose’s return, Winkelman said he received a handful of calls from people claiming to have her dog. “Some of them were qualified,” he said. “They knew how to find my address and claimed to have information about us.”
The callers’ emphasis on claiming the reward money was a telltale sign of their ill intentions, Winkelman said. “I asked them to show pictures or give specific details about Jolie, and when they couldn’t, I just knew.”
Bernstein said pet owners need to be careful about how much information is shared about their pets, whether in public or on social media. The latter is a tool that thieves often use to target dog owners, finding details such as where they live, how much money is spent on the dogs, and when and where they are taken for walks.
“The person following you online understands that you have invested heavily in the dog, that you love it and that you will pay a ransom,” she said.
To keep a dog safe, Hunter Munden also advises:
- Microchip the animal and keep this information up to date
- Be aware of the surroundings when walking the dog
- Do not leave it unattended in public or easily accessible places, even at home in the yard.