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(AK) Petite pooches are in jeopardy of being abducted August 11, 2005 9:59 AM

Honestly, what next?!!!

MISSING: Thieves may be reselling or trying to breed the small, expensive dogs.

Anchorage Daily News

Published: August 10th, 2005
Last Modified: August 10th, 2005 at 06:12 AM

Photo by STEPHEN NOWERS / Anchorage Daily News
Click on photo to enlarge

Polly Peterman displays a photograph of her missing miniature pinschers, Kazi, left, Kia and Trigger. The dogs vanished from a secure pen one night in June, and Peterman believes they were stolen.

WASILLA -- An unexplained series of dognappings has struck Wasilla and Houston, reports the Houston animal safety and protection department, which handles pet control duties for both towns.

"Little, small lap dogs have been disappearing left and right," administrator Cat Bullington said.

So far this summer, Bullington has fielded reports of seven suspected thefts. The animals, often expensive purebreds, may be being used in puppy mills, she said, describing a bizarre trend that's left pet owners distraught and at least some observers skeptical.

Maybe eagles, known to grab kittens in Bush villages, are snatching away the pugs and terriers. Or maybe the missing spaniels and Pomeranians had enough of the good life and made a simple bid for freedom.

Try telling that to Polly Peterman, a 36-year-old heavy equipment operator whose three miniature pinschers all disappeared from a secure pen one night in June. The dogs, so devoted to their owner that they jostled and pushed for lap space, were all about 10 inches tall with no hope of jumping the four-foot fence or of digging under lumber placed to block any adventuring.

Peterman and a friend plastered posters offering a $1,000 reward around her home near Settlers Bay. A picture of the dogs -- named Kia, Kazi and Trigger -- is attached to the signs. So is a handwritten notation, with a smiley face: "I want my babies back."

But most of the people who responded only wanted to share stories of their own lap dogs' disappearances, and Peterman, who was preparing to move to Washington this week, has gone from tearful to angry.

She takes some comfort in knowing that anyone who had hoped to breed the purebreds, which sell for hundreds of dollars, is in for a surprise. "They're all fixed," Peterman said.

Houston animal control keeps a list of missing animals at its bunker-like shelter at the end of a gravel road off the Parks Highway. Large, plastic-lined pools sit on either side of the building, which was once a sewage-treatment plant. Frogs and ducks now populate the outdoor vats.

Inside on a recent weekday afternoon, the shelter cages held an Alaska Malamute named Ginger and a shorthaired husky called Baby Girl. Ginger's owner surrendered her, animal safety officer Rick Molburg said, while Baby Girl's owner is a fugitive.

Animal control in the Valley, where many of the dogs are some mix of Rottweiler or pit bull, isn't for the weak-kneed. But Molburg comes from a mushing family in New England, and he's been bitten before.

He produced a copy of the missing animal reports of the past few months. The list includes several dogs, including an American bulldog, a rat terrier, a Pomeranian and cocker spaniel. Only a few have been found.

A report from August 2004 describes a white Pomeranian named Bugsy that was stolen at a Wasilla shopping mall. Also that month, Sara Lee Edwards says someone made off with her Yorkshire terrier, Faith.

The dog had cost her boyfriend $1,000 and may have been too cute for its own good. Passersby found the Yorkie irresistible, said Edwards, a 26-year-old Wasilla Realtor.

People driving by the house would stop and call Faith over to their cars, and one neighbor took the dog for an unannounced truck ride. One day, Edwards left the dog inside her unlocked house and came back to find it gone.

She posted missing-dog signs saying Faith was stolen.

"I just don't see how else she could have gone anywhere," Edwards said.

Wasilla Police Chief Don Savage said the department has received only a few reports of stolen dogs over the past two years. At the Matanuska-Susitna Borough shelter between Palmer and Wasilla, animal control chief Dave Allison said it's certainly not unheard of for dog owners to think their pet has been taken, only for the pooch to later reappear, happily dragging its chain behind.

"Not to say that (theft) doesn't happen," Allison said.

Small breeds are more valuable in Alaska, meaning wannabe lap dog owners might be tempted to simply grab one rather than pay $1,500 or $2,000, he said.

Bullington, the Houston animal control administrator, said it has been hard to track down whoever might be doing the stealing because they likely keep the dogs indoors and out of sight. She thinks the animals may be being resold or used as breeders.

Houston is growing quickly, Bullington said, and she expects any troubles with missing pets will only grow along with it.

An American Kennel Club poster hangs next to Bullington's chair in the lobby with pictures to identify various breeds.

"I myself own a Chihuahua, and I would be mortified if my dog were taken," she said.

Missing a pet? Check the local animal shelter

Houston Animal Protection

Mile 57.3 Parks Highway


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 August 11, 2005 9:59 AM


Matanuska-Susitna Borough Animal Care and Regulation

1200 North 49th State St.

Palmer 99645


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