By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Falls police are continuing to try to track down a bulldog that was taken from the SPCA of Niagara shelter a week ago.
Officers went to multiple locations in the city on Friday and over the weekend in a search for the animal.
The hunt ranged from Walnut Avenue to 15th Street and Weston Avenue to the 700 block of 19th Street. In one case, a witness told officers they were sure the dog was in a nearby house, but the resident of the home denied it.
"There was a small dog in the home and (officers and animal rescue workers) could hear a larger dog barking from behind a closed door," SPCA Shelter Director Amy Lewis said. "But the (resident) insisted there was no other dog there and refused to let the police inside."
The white American bulldog was discovered missing after an apparent break-in at the shelter. Investigators believe the dognapping occurred between 8 p.m. Aug. 19 and 8 a.m. Aug. 20.
SPCA officials believe the break-in is tied to a Falls man who was staying at a 15th Street home where the dog was seized.
“We got a call over the weekend (of Aug. 17-18) from the Falls police to remove a dog from a home on 15th Street,” Lewis said. “The man who had the dog had been arrested for squatting in the home.”
Lewis said an SPCA rescue worker brought the bulldog to the organization’s Lockport Road shelter and it was placed in a kennel there. A day later, the man who had been accused of illegally occupying the 15th Street property showed up at the shelter and demanded the dog.
“He showed up and said, ‘You guys got my dog’, so we took him into the kennel and he identified (the bulldog) as his,” Lewis said. “We told him we needed to see proof of ownership, registration and vaccinations and then he could have the dog.”
Lewis noted the dog did not have any license or vaccination tags when it was seized.
The man left the shelter and returned short time later with a sheet paper with the letterhead of a Niagara Falls law firm. The paper had his signature and a notary stamp.
“We said this doesn’t prove you own the dog, it just proves this is your signature,” Lewis said.
The shelter director said the man argued with SPCA staffers, but eventually left, without the dog. Lewis said shelter workers also wondered about the man's reasons for wanting the dog returned.
"We told him if he couldn't prove the dog was his, if he didn't have paperwork, we would hold the dog for the required number of days and then let him adopt it," she said.
Lewis said the man was told he would need to make sure the dog was registered and vaccinated and the SPCA would neuter the animal.
"He became very upset over that," Lewis said. "He told (a staffer) something akin to 'You'll neuter him over my dead body.' and left. So we think he's using the dog (to breed)."
The next day (Aug. 20), a kennel worker discovered the bulldog was missing.
“Someone had cut through our fence and entered (the kennel) and removed the dog,” Lewis said. “It may be one thing to take your dog, if it is your dog, but it’s another to break and enter our shelter.”
Falls police say they have information that the man who claimed the dog now has the animal in his possession.