I recall this happening a few times in the Yakima area too. It's fairly universal. Dogs are stolen for use in medical research facilities, or as "bait" for training fighting dogs, or for their resale value.
Here are some details...and cautions...printed in the March 22 Missoulian:
"Recent thefts of dogs in the Missoula area as well as Billings, Great Falls and northern Wyoming should be a call for extra vigilance on the part of dog owners....Thieves took the dogs from their yards and neighborhoods.
"The Humane Society of the United States’ Northern Rockies regional office has offered rewards for information leading to the arrests and convictions of thieves who took dogs from northern Wyoming in September and Billings in late February.
"Dog owners need not panic, but they should be cautious, said Ed Franceschina, Missoula Animal Control director.“'You just need to be a little more vigilant right now, just keep track of who’s who and what’s what,' he said.
"Thieves steal dogs to sell to medical research facilities, to use as 'bait' in training fighting dogs and to sell for money.
"Here are some things dog owners can do:
"Microchip your dog and follow through with the registration of your telephone numbers. Thieves can remove a dog’s collar, but the microchip is implanted in the dog so it can be traced back to its owner. Reputable biomedical research firms and schools scan dogs for microchips.
"License your dog. The license is another way to track ownership.
"Be part of a neighborhood dog watch. Watch for suspicious cars and question anyone who approaches your neighbors’ dogs.
"Walk your fence and make sure it is secure. Make sure your gates have latches. Extra latches are deterrents.
"When your dog is waiting in the car (only acceptable when the weather is not too hot) lock the car doors.
"Weigh the consequences of leaving your dogs outside in the yard while you are away, and make them as secure and theft-proof as possible when they must be outside.
"Dogs that are stolen are often abandoned later. A microchip or license can reunite them with their owners. Most veterinarians implant microchips.
"Allowing your dog to wander is an invitation to thieves, as well as dangers such as being hit by cars."