In response to a growing trend known as "dog flipping," a New Jersey lawmaker has introduced legislation to criminalize the act.

Eric Isselée, ThinkStock
Eric Isselée, ThinkStock

Dog flipping is when people steal family pets and then sell them on popular websites like Craigslist. In some cases, the dogs are resold and used for breeding or dog fighting.

Currently, New Jersey does not have a law that specifically addresses stolen pets that are then sold at a profit.

Under the legislation, stealing a dog and reselling it would be considered a third degree crime. A conviction could result in a three- to five-year prison sentence, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

"We started to do a little digging on it and we see where people are stealing animals and then selling them, especially more expensive ones, but sometimes it's just a family pet or a rescue dog. If somebody were to steal my dog I would be devastated," said state Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden).

While reports of dog flipping are not widespread, Scutari said they are becoming more and more common.

Scutari's bill would apply to other domestic pets as well like cats or rabbits.

"The message is that we put importance on the love and compassion that dogs give to their owners," Scutari said. "When a pet is stolen people are devastated. Families are essentially broken apart and broken up. These animals are a part of their family."

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there was a 31 percent increase in stolen pets from 2012 to 2013. Last Chance for Animals, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, told Modern Dog that they estimate about two million pets are stolen every year.

ASPCA's website provides a section with tips for finding a lost pet.