Missing dogs believed to be stolen

After a brutally cold winter, the warm weather seems ideal to let pets play outdoors. But reports of attempted animal thefts have some dog owners in Michiana on high alert.

NewsCenter 16 spoke with one woman who said a pet-napping almost happened in her own front yard.

"A woman was getting out of her car across the street and told my son she looked like a dog that was missing," said Angela Slater.

A few weeks ago Slater's four-year-old Shitzhu Poodle, Daisy, was in the family's fenced-in front yard playing. Slater's son looked outside and caught the stranger kneeling down near the pop with a man behind her with a blanket outstretched.

"She kept asking my son if he was sure it was our dog," Slater explained.

That wasn't the only time Daisy was nearly swiped. Slater said Daisy was playing with her neighbor's dog down the street and someone approached her convinced that the dog was stolen.

"It could be somebody trying to do good and return someone's pet, at the same time you don't know if they have malicious intentions," added Slater.

The activist behind the Facebook group, South Bend Lost and Found Pets, Melodie Heintzelman, said pet thieves will take pets and try to "flip" them and find new owners online, sell them to dog fighting rings or to laboratories.

"There are so many bad things happening to these pets," said Heintzelman.

She said her Facebook group is full of animal loving rescuers on the look out for dogs that appear to be stray or have been reported missing. Spikes in missing pets from the same area are a red flag that something more nefarious is going on.

Other Facebook pages and websites provide forums for owners and references for local shelters.

South Bend Animal Care and Control staff members reference these pages to see if any of their animals match the descriptions of those reported missing. The director, Matt Harmon, encourages pet owners to utilize social media to find their missing dog or cat but also wants people to file a report at a local shelter.

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