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Rumors Flying of Dog Thefts, Dogfighting Rings

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Max Chihuahua

A male Chihuahua, Max, went missing from his Gooding home on March 8. He'll be 4-years-old in April.

"He has never run off before and we have had him since he was 8 weeks old.  He is pure bred, black and tan and intact.  He was last wearing a blueish collar with his rabies tag and a bone shaped Boise State Broncos ID tag with his name Max and my phone number on it.," his owner April Reed said.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho • Michelle Bull heard the crack of a gun outside her Jerome County home and ran outside.

One of her family’s dogs, Bean, a deerhound and Anatolian shepherd mix, was nowhere to be found.

Bull, who lives in northern Jerome County said she asked nearby dairy employees if they’d seen anything. The employees reported seeing an unfamiliar SUV driving around the area.

Finally, after a search of the fields around their home, the Bull family found Bean dead near a canal.

“I guess this Suburban drove up on the canal road and shot Bean and just left him,” Bull said.

Bull said she reported the case to the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Dan Kennedy with the Jerome County Sheriff's Office said the case has no suspects but is being investigated.

Rumor or Reality

That was Feb. 10. Since then, Bull said she’s heard rumors that other dogs have been stolen, shot and killed like Bean, or even taken and used as bait animals for dogfights.

Similar rumors have been racing around the Magic Valley through emails, Facebook and Craigslist posts. The Twin Falls and Wendell animal shelters even posted warnings on Facebook that say dog owners should be wary of leaving their pets outside.

While local authorities said there haven’t been an increase in reports of stolen or killed animals in recent weeks, they also said if people see something suspicious or are a victim themselves, they need to come forward.

If people have information on missing dogs or dog fighting, Jerome Police Chief Dan Hall said, they should contact their local police.

“We need actual information,” he said. “Not ‘I heard a story from somebody who said something.’ So far that’s all we’re hearing.”

Twin Falls city spokesman Joshua Palmer said city police haven't seen an increase in calls about missing or stolen dogs or any calls about dogfights, but if it's happening, police need documentation.

"If somebody sees something suspicious or they see animals being taken from the street, please report it," he said.

Twin Falls Animal Shelter Director Debbie Blackwood agreed. Blackwood said a person whose dog is stolen, hurt or killed needs to document the incident with photos and a police report. Anyone who needs help with photos or how to make a report is welcome to call the animal shelter, she said.

"Let's substantiate these so we are credible in our report," she said.

Documentation

Two weeks ago, a person walking out in the Devil's Coral area on the north rim of the Snake River Canyon in Jerome County did just that.

Blackwood said the people found the body of a male German shepherd that appeared to have been brutally beaten to death and covered with a sheet.

"My staff went out, retrieved the body and took pictures," she said, "then brought the body back to our shelter."

Blackwood said having the evidence of the dog's brutal death will help in the investigation.

Shelter staff checked the dog for an identification chip and tried to match it with reported missing German shepherds but couldn't identify the dog.

Kennedy said this incident wasn't reported to the Jerome County Sheriff's Office, but a different dog shooting death was.

Kennedy said deputies took a report about two black dogs belonging to a Jerome County family being allegedly shot by a neighbor. Deputies completed their report and turned it over to prosecutors Thursday, he said.

Gooding resident and animal rescue volunteer Amber Halsell said she's friends with the family and shared their story on Facebook.

Halsell said the family’s two black dogs, Gauge and Mac, went missing. Eventually, she said, they were found shot to death on a neighbor's property.

Disappeared

Recently, several people have called the Twin Falls Animal Shelter reporting missing dogs. While this is a regular occurrence, Blackwood said often missing dogs can be matched up with ones in various shelters or deceased dogs found by animal control.

"We've gotten calls that dogs totally disappear," she said. "That's what's weird."

Halsell said that through Craigslist and other places, she's compiled a list of about 40 missing dogs from the last several weeks.

Many of the other reportedly stolen dogs are from the Wendell area. Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough said he heard of the rumors for the first time Wednesday afternoon. Gough said he heard of one missing dog, a Chihuahua.

April Reed, the dog's owner, said the black and tan Chihuahua named Max seemed to vanish one night.

"He was let outside to potty and never came back up to the door to come in," she said.

Horrifying

With rumors running wild that dogs are being stolen and used for bait in dogfights, those whose dogs have gone missing are scared.

When Winnie Mahan's two collies went missing Thursday morning, she feared the worst. Then, they mysteriously returned.

Mahan said the two collies were in a fenced yard outside her Twin Falls home. Sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Thursday the collies disappeared, she said.

“They couldn’t have opened the gate,” she said.

Strong winds never opened the gate’s latch before, either, Mahan said.

“We heard the rumors and panicked,” she said,

Soon, photos of the dogs were being sent all over Facebook.

Then, Mahan said, she believes someone dropped the dogs off outside her home early Thursday afternoon. Mahan said she heard a car door shut, then a car drive away. When she looked outside, the collies were back.

Shirley Anderson, of Jerome, wasn't so lucky.

Her border collie has been missing since March 8.

"I had just left home to go out of town and my husband let her out," she said. "A few minutes later, he heard her bark and thought I had forgotten something and had returned as he heard a car running. After a few minutes, he heard the car drive away and went to investigate. The dog has not been seen since."

Anderson said her husband has put about 600 miles on their car, driving around looking for the dog, but they never reported it missing to police.

Since the border collie went missing, Anderson said she keeps her other dogs within view at all times.

"The rumors are horrifying," she said.

Blackwood said she has no evidence herself that dogs in the Magic Valley have been stolen for dogfights.

While stories of dogfights are just rumors for now, Halsell said she hopes a reward might bring people with knowledge forward.

"I have been hanging posters from the Humane Society of the U.S., which offer a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone fighting dogs," she said. "At this point, I think that the only way any existing dogfighting ring is going to be found out is if someone who knows the whos and whens and wheres speaks up."

*****

Reporting a Crime?

To report a stolen or missing dog:

Twin Falls Police: 208-735-4357

SIRCOMM: 208-324-1911

Jerome Animal Shelter: 208-324-8436

Wendell Animal Control: 208-536-5161 or 208-536-2935

Twin Falls Animal Shelter: 208-736-2299

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