Someone is stealing dogs in Belmont County, then either dropping them off at the county animal shelter or advertising them online.
Shelter officials say it has happened to about 10 dogs in the past week.
In one case, a woman went to a home where a Jack Russell Terrier was tied outside.
Flashing a badge and claiming to be an official, the woman demanded that the homeowner surrender her dog, and she did.
“She presented herself as an individual obviously of some authority by flashing this badge,” said Angela Hatfield, shelter director. “She intimidated the person further by saying that she would be arrested.”
Since then, Hatfield says she’s gotten a number of reports from the sheriff’s department about other dogs in the county disappearing from their owners’ properties, then showing up in advertisements online, as being up for adoption.
Hatfield says these people may feel that they are “rescuing” dogs from unsuitable homes, but it’s not legal.
In her words, “They’re making themselves the judge and jury of animal care.”
She urges pet owners not to be intimidated into handing over their dogs to anyone, unless they have credentials as the county dog warden or humane officer.
In at least one case, a woman brought a dog into the shelter and dropped it off, signing a phony name.
Hatfield says some evidence has already been gathered, and the prosecutor’s office is on the case.
Anyone with any information is urged to call the shelter at (740) 695-4708.