By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — The SPCA of Niagara has recovered it's kidnapped bulldog and the prime suspect in the case has been jailed on unrelated charges.
SPCA officials said the received a tip Wednesday afternoon that the missing dog was "sitting" in front of a home on 17th Street. When rescue workers responded, they found the dog and regained custody of him.
The discovery of the missing dog came abut 24 hours after the prime suspect in the dognapping was arrested after a shoplifting incident at a store in the 1500 block of Military Road.
He was charged with petit larceny in the shoplifting case and investigators from the Niagara County Sheriff's Office will now look into charging him in the kidnapping of the dog.
Falls Police had spent more than a week trying to track down the bulldog. Officers went to multiple locations in the city 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.
The white American bulldog, known as King, was discovered missing after an apparent break-in at the Lockport Road animal shelter. Investigators believe the dognapping occurred between 8 p.m. Aug. 19 and 8 a.m. Aug. 20.
SPCA officials believe the break-in was tied to a Falls man who was staying at a 15th Street home where the dog was seized.
“The man who had the dog had been arrested for squatting in the home,” SPCA Shelter Director Amy Lewis said.
Lewis said an SPCA rescue worker brought the bulldog to the organization’s 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 a short time later with a sheet of 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.”