You might want to watch your four-legged friend just a little closer and hold them just a little tighter as TIME Magazine points out that dog-nappings are on the rise in the US.

Since the recession began, a laundry list of assorted quirky economic indicators has been observed—tooth fairy payments, hot waitresses, men’s underwear sales, sales at thrift stores, and married men having affairs to name a few.

Here’s one to add to the list: According to USA Today, the number of dogs snatched away from unsuspecting owners has spiked recently. During the first seven months of 2011, per the American Kennel Club (AKC), there were reports of 224 dogs being stolen—compared to just 150 during the same time period last year. That’s a rise of 49%. Overall last year, there were 255 dogs reported stolen, up from 162 in 2009 and 71 in 2008.

And what’s behind the rise in canine kidnappings and thefts? Lisa Peterson, AKC spokeswoman, tells USA Today flatly, “The motivation is money and economics.”

[ via Moneyland | TIME.com ]