A Vancouver family is hunting for their Yorkshire Terrier, believed stolen as part of what some say is a growing dog-theft trend that could be a means of generating money for illegal drugs. 

Margot Robinson works in a store in the Gastown neighbourhood and takes her dog Lakai with her to the job five days a week. The six-year-old dog regularly wanders out in front of the shop, but always comes back a short time later.

After one of his brief forays on Tuesday, he didn't return.

Robinson asked neighbours if anyone had seen Lakai, and that's when she learned he likely had been stolen.

"People were saying that they saw him and they saw a man with a backpack, having a dog," said Robinson.

She also learned it's a common occurrence, especially in areas of the city near the Downtown Eastside.

"This happens often and people will try to get money or drugs for the dog," Robinson said. "We've gone to all of the hospitals. They've given us the same answers, that people would try to flip this dog."

Tracking dog brought in

The American Kennel Club is reporting a 50-per-cent increase in dog thefts this year. The organization says the motive for dog snatchers is always money, by either selling the animal or collecting a reward.

Professional dog finder Al MacLellan said he has noticed an increase in thefts in B.C., especially of dogs that have been left briefly unattended in public.

"People are leaving dogs in front of stores or in their cars," said MacLellan. "There are organized dog thieves out there."

MacLellan said he's trying to help the Robinsons hunt for Lakai using a tracking dog, but said that, given the urban setting, it will be difficult to track the Yorkshire's scent.

Robinson is also very concerned about Lakai's health. The dog has a tracheal condition, which requires daily medication and he could die without it.

With files from the CBC's Aarti Pole