OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — A theft in Ottawa County has the Sheriff's Office calling it a "unique case."
Ten purebred puppies only several weeks old were seized from a home in Tallmadge Township after authorities proved they had been stolen from a breeder in Ohio.
"These poor puppies," said Jen Self-Aulgur, Executive Director of the Harbor Humane Society. "That's a really hard thing for puppies to go through."
In early June, nearly 40 puppies were stolen from a property in Holmes County, Ohio, just outside of Akron.
On Tuesday, 10 of those puppies, all French bulldogs, were found at a home in Tallmadge Township after the Holmes County Sheriff's Department made contact with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
"We assisted by going to the residence in the 900 block of Leonard Street," said Capt. Mark Bennett with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
"Some investigation ensued," Bennett added, "and it was determined that 10 of those animals were in fact the same animals that were stolen."
The dogs are valued at approximately $6,000 apiece.
After being found by authorities, the puppies were brought to the Harbor Humane Society in Ottawa County where they were cared for. The owners drove from Ohio and were reunited with their puppies Wednesday morning at the shelter.
"The puppies spent the night with us, and we vetted them just to make sure they were healthy," said Self-Aulgur.
Authorities say employees with the Ohio breeder saw pictures posted online of puppies that looked similar to the ones that had been stolen.
"They were able to somehow trace pictures on the internet and find them," said Self-Aulgur. "From there, they keyed in on the young woman's Facebook profile and used social media to track them down."
All of the puppies were microchipped so the investigation was able to confirm that those 10 puppies found in the 900 block of Leonard Street in Tallmadge Township were in fact the ones that were stolen earlier in the month.
"It sounds as though the suspects, whether or not it's those folks on Leonard Street, or others involved, have targeted specific breeders of these French bulldogs," said Bennett.
Bennett said no one is yet in custody for the crime, but charges are likely to include a 41-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl, both from Tallmadge Township.
Bennett adds that this is a complex investigation.
"There is still a lot of legwork to do," Bennett said, "and there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together investigatively."
"We have a crime of theft that's been committed in Ohio, allegedly, and then a crime of receiving stolen property, presumably, here in Michigan," he added.
Bennett said once the investigation is concluded, they will make a presentation to the prosecutors office in both jurisdictions to determine the best course of action as far as charges and who is involved where.
Bennett told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that there is a case of puppy theft in Northern Indiana that could be connected but that has not yet been confirmed. That is why he said the ongoing investigation is extremely important because there could be others involved, and there are still other dogs missing from the breeder in Ohio.
"We are really hopeful that if there is something going on that the Sheriff's Office can get to the bottom of it and we can find out what's happening," said Self-Aulgur.
"There was no indication of any mistreatment of the puppies there on Leonard Street," said Bennett. "It looks as though this particular crime was committed just for the money of these expensive animals."
Self-Aulgur confirmed that the puppies were in fairly good health, with the exception of a few minor infections.
"I think I'm more concerned that people are stealing puppies or getting puppies at a cheap price and then flipping them," added Self-Aulgur, "because I can tell you at the end of the day, a lot of those unwanted animals end up at places like Harbor Humane."
In an article published in February, the American Kennel Club said that high-value dogs like bulldogs and French bulldogs are most at risk for being stolen.
Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Silent Observer at 1-877-88-SILENT or www.mosotips.com.
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