Woman Charged With Theft of Autistic Boy’s Therapy Dog

A northern Illinois woman, Betty Peltier of Antioch, has pleaded guilty to stealing a therapy dog used to assist an autistic child. Peltier has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge as part of a plea agreement and must perform 100 hours of public service and be under court supervision for one year. Peltier is charging with taking a†Chihuahua, “Peanut,” when the dog wandered from its home, and not returning it to the boy’s family until the boy’s mother offered a reward.

In recent years, more and more families have found that therapy dogs have been a real support to their autistic children. The dogs can help soothe and calm an agitated child who may, like my teenage son, not be able to communicate distress. As suggested in recent news reports, it is not uncommon for autistic children to wander and therapy dogs can help keep a child safe, by alerting parents and others that a child — who may not have thought it was necessary to inform anyone that they are going on a very long walk — is “eloping.” Some autistic children are accompanied by their therapy dogs to school; some parents have had to sue a school district to ensure their child is able to have the dog with her or him.

Indeed, the University of Nebraska at Kansas was recently sued by the US Justice Department for failing to comply with the Fair Housing Act in the case of a student with disabilities, who was not allowed to live in campus housing with her therapy dog. The student relies on the dog to deal with her depression and anxiety. But the university cited the American with Disabilities Act and claimed that the “dog was a pet, not a service animal, such as a guide dog for the blind.” The Justice Department’s decision to sue the university indicates that “in its view, colleges must observe the broader requirements of the Fair Housing Act in such cases.”

That is, a therapy dog can be — is — simply essential for the day-to-day functioning of an individual with disabilities, just as someone who is blind depends on a seeing-eye dog.

The reports about Peltier stealing the Chicago-area autistic child’s therapy do not provide a lot of detail about her possible motives. Taking a therapy dog from a child with disabilities is a heartless and cruel act. The therapy dog, Peanut, was much needed by the boy, enough that his mother would offer a reward for the dog’s return. My own son relies on routines, on things being constant and familiar in his surroundings; while anyone would be alarmed at a missing pet, not having a therapy dog could be beyond devastating to an autistic child, with ramifications for the child’s family. I’m hopeful that, whatever form Peltier’s community service takes, some aspect of it might educate her about why her theft of the therapy dog was not simply ill-advised, but inhumane.

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Photo by dee & tula monstah

180 comments

Lois Mills
Lois Millsabout a year ago

I can't understand why these people are taking and abusing these so special therapy dogs. They need to be imprisoned in a mental institution for a few years where they can be examined and treated for what seems to be obvious illness. These dogs deserve protection!

Ana MESNER
Ana MESNERabout a year ago

Heartbreaking.

Angela P.
Angie P.about a year ago

Talk about a cruel and heartless woman. Wish she could have got some jail time.

Susan R.
.about a year ago

Thank you.

gail mulloy
gail mulloy2 years ago

Another ROTTEN HUMAN

Lynne Whittington

What if the university of Nebraska student had been a Cornhusker ??? He would have been allowed a dog, a snake, a bird whatever he wanted !!!

rene davis
rene davis3 years ago

thank you.

Connie Herndon
Connie Herndon4 years ago

I need more information before I can state an opinion. To me the article doesn't state that the woman stole the dog. It states that she didn't return it until a reward was offered. If the dog wondered from its home and if it did not have a collar with tags when the woman took the dog in then how was she charged for stealing the dog?
I'm only guessing that she lived nearby, found the dog after it wondered away from home, and only returned it after she saw a reward.
All I can say is something is missing from this story and the story about the dog taken and then left dead in the owner's front yard.

Gina Caracci
Gina Caracci4 years ago

I didnt have time to read thru most of the posts on here- as a few people are very upset.

I would just like to say that whether the doggie was lost or stolen (I doubt it was lost as they are very well trained if they are assistive therapy dogs), its horrible that she would only return it for money. MANY MANY dogs are being stolen with the thopes of getting the 'reward' offered. Its disgusting that people (like the govt) only think of them selves and MONEY. Animals are NOT posessions and are members of the family. There needs to be a an animal offender registry just like a sex offender registry. and people like dog murderer Michael Vick need to be locked up and the key thrown into a VERY DEEP HOLE and buried. They should not be allowed to be out among people and should NOT be allowed to make millions of dollars per year! Cruelty to animals just shows how little regard these 'people' have for any kind of life, even humans. Thanks for listening.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold4 years ago

It was inhumane to both Peanut and his owner. People like her only care about themselves and what they can get. Notice when money was involved Peanut reappeared. That tells me she is just a mercinary witch.