MIAMI — In five minutes, Sailor’s life changed as she knew it. She was snatched from her Marathon home and fed hot dogs by thieves who thought they secured a payday.

But they were mistaken. Sailor was spayed. There would be no pricy pups from her.

Their thwarted Plan A left them scrambling for ideas – until they settled on a $1,000 ransom. They took the dog and fled up the Overseas Highway. A day later, they arranged a meet-up at Dadeland Mall – a meet-up where police reunited Sailor with her family and arrested the suspects.

Sailor is one of 2 million dogs stolen every year in the United States. But she’s also one of the lucky 10% of those reunited with their owners.

French bulldogs, like many other purebred dogs, are targets for theft because of their high value. Swindlers are looking to “dog flip” – steal, take in and adopt dogs to breed, and resell them for a quick profit.

Even Lady Gaga has been a victim of the trend. Her French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav, were stolen in a 2021 street robbery that left her dog walker shot and critically wounded.


Tales of violent encounters and snatched Frenchies are common across the country. A Miami breeder lost his prize-winning French bulldog, Che, and two litters of puppies to thieves in 2014.

Breeder Diana Zingaretti, owner of Miami Blue French bulldogs, has heard stories of stolen Frenchies way too often. The breed can range from $5,000 to $200,000 for one pup, which entices thieves looking to make a quick buck.

She said she has seen cars circle her home and scope it out. Her property is filled with indoor and outdoor cameras.

“That’s why I really don’t like to walk my dogs anymore,” Zingaretti said. “I just carry a gun now just to be on the safe side.”

She doesn’t allow clients to visit her home to see the puppies. She usually meets them at a police station or a mall – and runs a criminal background check before suggesting a meet-up.

Breeders and owners should not leave Frenchies in their backyards unsupervised, even for a minute, she said. Bandits jump fences, ready to steal the dogs and dash away.


“Unless it’s like Lady Gaga, it’s not all over the news,” Zingaretti said. “But it does happen a lot.”

A Miami breeder of 14 years, who asked that her name not be published for fear that crooks would target her, said she believes thefts of French bulldogs were more prevalent a few years ago. In many cases, the thieves who breed the stolen dogs don’t know what they’re doing, and puppies end up with health issues, she said.

French Bulldog Village, a nationwide rescue group, has witnessed an increase in overbred and inbred dogs with severe health issues, treasurer Cara Berardo said. And they’re not just medical disorders. They’re also behavioral.

Some Frenchies are even bred into “fad colors.” Blue, merle and lilac-coated pups come with worse medical and behavioral issues, she said.

While sweet and adorable, French bulldogs can be stubborn and require training, the Philadelphia-based Berardo said. And in some cases, they can get aggressive.

The rescue group has struggled with dogs who bite volunteers and foster families, she said. Many pandemic Frenchie owners have surrendered their dogs because they’re unsocialized and bite anyone around them.


One pup was taken in by a Pennsylvania woman trained to deal with dogs with behavioral issues.

“If she didn’t take him, we would have had to put him down and it’s not an easy decision,” she said. “This dog is a liability to our volunteers and to the continuation of our rescue. If we are sued by somebody because the dog bit them, then that ends all the good that we do.”

Many French bulldogs have intervertebral disc disease and need surgery or they may never walk again, she said. The operation, which can cost up to $4,000, has a slim success rate if not done immediately. Two Frenchies in the rescue are “almost unadoptable” due to the disease.

Berardo, who has worked with the breed since 2008, has experience caring for a sickly Frenchie. She rescued Conrad, a puppy mill dog from Missouri who was sold to a New York City pet store.

When she adopted Conrad, he had a leg injury. But that was the least of her worries. He had to have his soft palate cut down and nostrils widened so that he could breathe properly.

Conrad also suffered from a deformed esophagus. For seven years, Berardo had to watch him struggle to eat and breathe and throw up after he eat or drank. The only thing she could do to save Conrad was get him a prosthetic esophagus, an operation with a low success rate.


So Berardo and her vet decided to let him live out the rest of his days.

And even with $30,000 of medical care, Conrad died of his own body failing — because he was overbred and probably inbred, Berado said.

“To watch that little life who was so precious and so wonderful … He just never should have been born,” she said. “He was born out of greed.“

Breeding French bulldogs is expensive and time-consuming, said breeder Michael Gomez, owner of Bulldogs4Ever in the Miami area. That’s why the average price for a pup from a reputable breeder in South Florida ranges from $3,500 to $10,000. They require blood tests, frequent medical care and C-sections.

To ensure French Bulldog Village’s pups aren’t bred, all dogs are spayed and neutered unless they have conditions limiting them from doing so, Berardo said. Those adopting are required to sign a waiver agreeing that they will not breed the dog. The rescue also does reference checks, home visits and intense questioning to ensure the Frenchie is going into a forever home. Dogs who don’t like kids aren’t placed in a family, and adopters interested in a dog with health issues are warned about expensive medical costs.

Minutes after Berardo spoke to The Miami Herald, two Frenchies were dumped in the parking lot of Southeast Veterinary Neurology near Miami. They were backyard breeder dogs in rough shape, she said.

French bulldogs with these conditions exist because of backyard breeders and puppy millers, she said. People would rather get a pup quickly than get on a years-long wait list through a reputable breeder.

“It just breeds into the culture of I see, I want, I get,” she said.

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