NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Last week, two pit bull puppies were stolen from two different backyards across the street from each other on Evans Street.
Sarah Walsh, who started a pit bull rescue in Castle Hayne, believes pit-napping is getting worse.
She said the dogs are often stolen and used as guard dogs, trained as fighters, or thrown into rings as bait.
"Once every couple of months I get a phone call from somebody who's adopted a dog that's now missing," said Walsh. "But in the past month, I've actually been contacted by four or five people who've actually come out here to see if I have information about their missing dog."
Walsh cautions owners to protect their pit bulls. She warns not to leave them outside at night, and keep a close eye on them when they are outside.
While the break-ins on Evans Street took place in the middle of the night, but some dog thieves have stolen pit bulls in broad daylight.
One pit bull named Nigel vanished from his Wilmington backyard in October. His owner said he was home when Nigel was taken - someone hopped over his fence.
Nigel's owner is still looking for him, but he adopted another pit bull named Vie, a rescue dog who was possibly abused in the ring.
Dog theft is a problem that animal control agencies are aware of, but there's little law enforcement can do to prevent it. They say pit bull owners need to be aware of the risks.
"You need to know what you're dealing with and understand the mentality," said Dr. Jean McNeil of New Hanover County Animal Control. "The breed itself is not the issue. You may have the sweetest, most desirable pit bull pet available, but other people will see it and try to use it for something other than that."
There's no way to know if Nigel is involved in dog fighting, but his owner hopes other people will learn from his story and keep their dogs close at hand.
Anyone with information about the missing pit bulls is asked to call the Wilmington Police Department, 910-343-3600.