Missing canines baffling Police investigate the possibility of a dognapping ring

February 21, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

The last time Christopher Boyle saw his dog, Spot, the 2 1/2 -year-old German wirehaired pointer was being hustled into a blue car by a mysterious brown-haired woman.

Mr. Boyle, 18, said he yelled for the woman to stop, but, "She picked him up and like threw him in the car and took off. I don't know why she took him." Spot had been chained to a tree when the Jan. 29 theft occurred.

"He was a good dog," said Mr. Boyle of Parkton. "I drive around every once in a while looking for him, but I haven't seen him."

Baltimore County police are investigating the possibility that Spot, who has a pancreas ailment and needs daily medication, is the latest victim of a dognapping ring. In the last 13 months, nearly 30 Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and other purebred dogs have disappeared in northern Baltimore County and southern Pennsylvania.

No one seems to know why. The dogs, some worth as much as could be sold again as pets; someone might be selling them for laboratory experiments, or perhaps they are being used for breeding.

Some believe the missing dogs became sacrificial sparring partners to pit bulls trained for the bloody sport of dogfighting.

County vice detectives say there's no evidence dogfighting is happening in Maryland. It is illegal in all states, and a serious felony in some. However, police in York, Pa., say dogfighting happens fairly regularly in southern Pennsylvania.

Just how organized the alleged dog thefts may be is unclear, but owners of missing dogs and animal protection organizations in southern Pennsylvania say there have been too many incidents for it to be mere coincidence.

"There's definitely something going on," said Jodi Lang, a Reisterstown woman whose 5-year-old Rottweiler, Max, was +V stolen Jan. 12.

Lt. Lawrence R. Suther of the Cockeysville Precinct agrees. "We think there's something here. So, we'll run it out and see what we can find."

Police also are considering having the county's forensic artist draw a composite of the woman who Mr. Boyle said took his dog.

The suspected dog thefts include Tilly Dorsey's 6-year-old Rottweiler, Tres, who disappeared Jan. 8 from her 150-acre farm in Butler. Mrs. Dorsey said she didn't see anyone take her dog, which was not chained or fenced in when he vanished. However, she insists that in the six years she owned Tres, he never strayed from the farm.

"He was always right around the house," said Mrs. Dorsey, who hired a private investigator to try to track down her missing pet.

The reason? Several owners of missing dogs have reported seeing two women feeding, or trying to feed the pooches dog biscuits in the days leading up to the disappearances.

So far, however, Mrs. Dorsey's efforts and those of an animal control warden in York have failed to turn up any of the missing dogs.

Terry Hemler, a private animal control warden under contract with townships and boroughs in southern Pennsylvania, investigated the dognapping case and checked out some leads, but, "We were always a day late and a dollar short. It's just like chasing ghosts."

Helga Schmidt, who chairs the York Kennel Club's lost and stolen dog committee, has tracked the 28 stolen dog reports in Maryland and Pennsylvania. She said it's unusual to have that many dogs reported stolen.

"It's very seldom that you lose a dog that you never hear from again," she said, adding that, of the 55 to 60 missing dog reports she gets each month, most dogs are found or at least seen by neighbors.

Since December, Mrs. Schmidt said her group has peppered southern York County with fliers warning people to keep an eye on their pets.

"Since then, it seems like [the thefts] have moved south" into Maryland, she said.

Tilly Dorsey said a study of the list of missing dogs leads her to believe the pets are being taken and used to train pit bulls. First, she said, many of the 28 missing dogs are older and have physical ailments that would make them less valuable for lab experiments. Second, many were spayed or neutered, rendering them useless for breeding.

Last summer, four Shelties were taken within a two-month period; then a number of Jack Russell Terriers were reported stolen; next, some bigger dogs, such as golden retrievers. Finally, beginning in December, three Dobermans were stolen; after that, three Rottweilers.

Mrs. Dorsey believes this pattern supports her theory. The Shelties and Jack Russell Terriers are small dogs, but with feisty reputations. Dobermans and Rottweilers are bigger dogs known fierce fighters.

"We know that a pit bull is supposed to be able to kill a 100-pound dog before it's ready for the ring," she said.

Cindy Stoll, manager of the York County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, doesn't know whether the missing dogs are beingused for dogfighting, but she's certain dogs are being fought. Her shelter currently has a young pit bull whose owner was convicted of dogfighting in York.

The dog, named Bull, arrived at the shelter Jan. 15, the night York police broke up a dogfight.

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