Several dog owners and animal professionals have noticed a growing trend of missing pets in the past few months.
Several of the missing dogs have been purebred, including show dogs or full or part pit bull or boxer. Many people think that the dognappers take the dogs and sell them.
For Mylissa Clark, owner of Cash, a registered champion blue heeler, and Phineas, a full blood golden retriever, the disappearances and reappearances of pets are becoming a little too familiar.
The dogs first went missing about a month ago, said Clark. The family notified the police and found tracks outside the gate. They found them about a mile away from the house.
But a few days later, the dogs disappeared again.
“They were there in the morning,” said Bobby Clark, Mylissa’s father-in-law. “They were taken during the day while no one was home.”
The Clarks believe the disappearances of Phineas and Cash, which is a stud worth $5,000, are related to other dog disappearances in town.
“Somebody knows dogs,” Bobby Clark said. “Nearly all the dogs stolen have been purebred. We’ve heard of several different cases.”
The Clarks had all but given up hope of finding the dogs until Tuesday, when the family received a call from Williams Veterinary Clinic letting them know Phineas had been found.
“It was sheer luck,” said Mylissa Clark. “He and puppy were wandering around on a ranch in Refugio.”
No one knows how the dogs got there. Bobby Clark said the family will be keeping Phineas and any other future dogs at a different location.
Suzanne Lopez at the Williams Veterinary Clinic tries to find homes for lost pets and has noticed the trend of missing dogs.
She said it can be hard to prove a dog has been stolen.
“I would tell people to put a microchip in pedigreed dogs. If they get lost, you can prove they’re yours,” Lopez said.
The vet technician said she often takes in lost pets which are obviously not strays but never claimed.
“In two days, I got a chihuahua with a collar, a well-taken-care-of dachshund and a schnauzer with a leash attached that had just been groomed,” said Lopez. “Not one was claimed.
“I held the schnauzer for three weeks. I was sure someone would claim it. It really makes you wonder.”
Lopez said she has also heard of a few cases where the animal actually was stolen.
“I’ve heard of seven that were taken from a neighborhood. They were mutts taken for bait dogs,” she said.
Despite these few, the trend for reported missing dogs is those which have some kind of pedigree.
Terry Armstrong of the Beeville Humane Society said she knew of two dogs taken from the Capehart area about a month ago.
The dogs, Australian shepherds, were taken from behind a locked gate.
“(The owner) believes they were after her mom’s boxer,” said Armstrong. “But he’s shy, and the Aussies are friendly, so they went.”
Armstrong said dog owners should keep pets inside if they can.
“Keep the gates closed and locked. Check on them frequently,” Armstrong said. “Look for suspicious activity in your neighborhood.”
Vigilance, quick notification and active searching can pay off.
Jamie Humberson’s part pit bull, Buster, disappeared suddenly from her rural property in May 2009. She checked with local veterinarians, the pound and put in ad in the Bee-Picayune and got several responses but did not find the dog.
Finally, Humberson had a photo of Buster printed in the paper.
“Not two hours after the paper came out, I got a phone call,” she said. “A man called and said, ‘I think I’ve got your dog.’”
Humberson drove to the man’s home, where she said Buster recognized her immediately and sat in her lap all the way home.
The man had purchased Buster from a group of people selling pit bulls mixes and boxer mixes out of a pickup truck in George West as hog hunting dogs.
“That led me to believe Buster was stolen, and that the others were too,” Humberson said.
The proactive dog owner said she had heard of four or five other dogs in the Bee area that had disappeared at the same time.
Buster, according to Humberson, stays close to home now.
“I kept him tied up at night for awhile,” Humberson said. “It breaks my heart to see people’s dogs taken and sold into something like (hog hunting).”
Humberson remained very active during her search for Buster. According to Beeville animal control supervisor Johnny Carabajal, that’s exactly what she should’ve done.
“Don’t wait to contact us,” Carabajal said. “We may have picked it up.”
Carabajal also recommended keeping vaccine tags on dogs at all times, which allow animals to be traced to their owners.
The supervisor said keeping pets securely on one’s property is also a big help. He pointed out that while there have been cases like Humberson’s, it can be very hard to prove a dog was stolen and did not simply run away.
“A lot of people aren’t keeping their animals confined,” he said.
Carabajal said animal control will soon begin issuing more citations for animals on the loose. After business hours, city police officers will write tickets for wandering pets as well. Citation charges can be as high as $1,000.
Once animal control picks up an animal, they will hold it for three business days before they can give it up for adoption or euthanize it – another important reason to notify them of a missing pet immediately.
“We don’t want to destroy somebody’s animal if we don’t have to,” Carabajal said.
Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or sarah@mySouTex.com.