Families struggle for answers as dog thefts rise in NC

Beloved pets are being stolen from their homes. Thieves are taking the furry friends and leaving owners desperate for answers.

In one case, nothing was stolen from the home except the dog.

Anne Harper has been distraught since November about her dog Spanelli being stolen from her Clayton home.

Spanelli was stolen from Anne Harper in November.

Courtesy of Anne Harper

"We loved her to death, and I just want her found," Anne said.

Spanelli, a female Yorkshire terrier, was only 9 months old at the time. She was a gift to Anne from her grandson Prestin Bailey to help keep her company after the passing of her husband.

RELATED: See the flier for Spanelli (.pdf)

"I got Spanelli to keep my Nana company," Prestin said. "I mean she's gone through a lot, she's seen a lot, she's lost her husband. I wanted her to have a little friend."

They did file a police report, made posts online, and hung signs all around Johnston County and surrounding areas in hopes to find Spanelli.

While they continue to search for Spanelli, Prestin can't help but think someone did this because of her expensive breed.

"It's pretty shocking. It's just my only suspicion is that she was a pretty expensive breed and that could be what they're going after, maybe sell her and breed her," he explained. "If it is someone that we do know or anybody that knows the layout of the house just please put her in the side tool room of the front door. No questions asked, we won't press charges, we'll even give you the reward we have, $400-$500. I don't care how much just to bring her home for my grandma."

There are many more reported cases of stolen dogs. In 2017, close to 100 dogs were reported stolen in Wake, Durham, Johnston, and Cumberland counties, along with Cary and Raleigh.

Of those dogs, 39 were reported stolen in Cumberland County. In one case, the theft of a female tri-color female pitbull worth $2,200 and a litter of her pups each valued at $1,000 were reported stolen.

In Raleigh, it was reported to police that a white Chihuahua valued at $3,500 was stolen.

In Durham, we reported how two Yorkshire Terriers were stolen from a home on Thanksgiving Day. It took some time, but eventually, both dogs were returned.

The dogs reported stolen include expensive pitbulls to small pure breeds.

Shafonda Davis, the Executive Director of Animal Protection Society of Durham said thieves act on the opportunity.

"Make sure your animal is on a leash when you are out with them. If you have a fence, make sure you put a lock on it. Just don't leave your animal unattended more than they need to be," Davis said. "If your animal is home all day by themselves in a fence, they are more likely to be stolen than an animal that only goes out under supervision."

She also suggests making your pet less valuable to a thief.

"Make sure you spay or neuter your animals as soon as it's possible because an animal that cannot be bred isn't as valuable to a thief who wants your animal for bad reasons. Also, make sure you get that microchip on and that you also keep the tag on." Davis said.

At the Animal Protection Society of Durham, they offer the microchip to everyone who adopts or comes to redeem their missing dog.

Davis also said it's a good idea to get pictures of your pet so if something happens you can show that this is your dog. She also suggested keeping your veterinarian records somewhere you can easily find them.

As for Spanelli, Anne and Prestin continue to hold out hope for her safe return. They are hoping her distinguishing features of one pointed ear, one floppy ear and still having her tail, which is pretty unusual for her breed, helps people identify Spanelli.

"I think somebody should do the right thing and bring her home," Anne said.

What's the motive for stealing pets? Investigators said the majority of these crimes seem to be about greed and making some quick money.
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