Volunteer Assaulted, 2 Puppies Stolen At Petco Adoption Event
Two puppies were stolen and a volunteer assaulted at a Petco adoption event on Sunset Boulevard Sunday.The incident occurred at the Unleashed by Petco store at 7288 W. Sunset Blvd during an adoption event. The cages containing the puppies were outside on the sidewalk. Whitney Smith, who works for the adoption group, Pet Care Center, told LAist that up to five people were involved in the dognapping.
"With five people you can do a lot," Smith said. "Two people were occupying the workers, other ones were grabbing puppies and there's always a crowd outside when there's dogs out. It's very noisy, like being on a a tarmac of an airport. It's very hard to hear if a dog makes a sound."
While the two volunteers—whose last names she doesn't know—working the event were distracted by members of the group, another made off with two puppies. Jennifer, the female volunteer, confronted a man who was carrying a dog to his van. He claimed he wanted to show it to his grandmother. Jennifer was able to get that dog back from him, but when the male volunteer asked if the man had taken his cell phone, the suspect punched him in the face, Smith said. After the suspect made his getaway, Jennifer noticed that two of the dogs were missing.
The missing dogs are Lucky and Lola, two chihuahua mixes. Lucky is the one in the photo. Smith said Lucky's mother is very distraught because the puppy was the last of her litter. The other dog, Lola, was not photographed, partly because she was recovering from parvo, which is often fatal. She is described as undersized and "black with a white stripe on her nose."
Both dogs need more vaccinations and are vulnerable to further illness, Smith said.
Police are currently reviewing surveillance video of the Petco and a neighboring store. One of the thieves reportedly came into the store prior to the actual theft. One bystander got the license plate of a blue minivan, but police have not yet released their report, according to Smith.
Smith said that the suspected thieves were all in their 20s, except for an apparently older woman who was waiting in the van. "They were really organized," Smith said. "They all had bloodshot eyes and were either drunk or high or something." She suspects that the thieves mistakenly believed these were purebred dogs that they could sell for a lot of money. She is worried that the dogs, who aren't fixed, might end up being used as breeder dogs.
Alex Tiraki of Pet Care Center is offering $1,000 reward from her own pocket. "Hopefully, money will be an incentive," Smith told LAist. "Someone may be innocently purchasing these dogs right now without realizing they're stolen."
Smith said they've been doing adoptions of orphaned and abandoned dogs from their pet clinic for the past year without any trouble. "This is the first time this has ever happened." She says she's checking Craigslist and social media for someone who might be selling the stolen dogs.
Tiraki stressed that the male volunteer didn't care about being beat up, just about getting the puppies back. "These animals fell into the hands of some psychos. They were really well orchestrated. I think other rescues may be at risk."
If you have information, call Petco at 323-851-0133 or call Whitney Smith at 213-369-4333. Petco also posted about the theft on their Facebook page.