The dogs began disappearing in October, at least 40 now, presumably snatched from back yards.
Loki and Torchy, Austin dogs visiting Decatur for the Christmas holidays, were let out of the house about 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, said Decatur Mayor Martin Woodruff. Loki, a 135-pound Great Dane, and Torchy, a pit bull, barked a few times in the yard, which surprised no one, Woodruff said.
The dogs, who belong to the mayor’s son, often bark at people or other dogs who go by, he said. But when his wife went to let them back in, they were gone.
“We were especially surprised about the Great Dane,” Woodruff said. “They aren’t jumpers. They have a hard time getting over the fence.”
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They told the neighbors, alerted mail carriers, talked to passing motorists in case anyone had seen them and also to let people know there were some fairly large dogs on the loose. The Woodruffs did not want people to be alarmed when they saw them, the mayor said.
“Later, we discovered that Robin Lewis, who lives over on the next street, had lost her dog the same day,” Woodruff said. “She did some research and found out that five dogs from the same area disappeared that same day.”
Latest reports show that more than 40 dogs have disappeared from Decatur and other communities in Wise County — including Alvord, Chico, Paradise, Rhome and Runaway Bay — the past 90 days. Many, but not all of them, are posted in a Facebook album on the Lost Dogs of Texas page.
The latest dog shown in the album, Pippy, a long-haired Chihuahua-Terrier mix out of Rhome, has been missing since Jan. 14.
“The way they went missing suddenly, without anyone seeing any of the dogs, leads you to believe that someone with a vehicle has taken them out of the county somewhere,” Woodruff said. “People said there was probably some kind of theft ring operating. There must be a market.”
Wise County Sheriff David Walker said none of the dogs they have photographs for have been recovered. Deputies are asking that people be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles and continue to check animal shelters to determine if their dogs have been turned in, Walker said.
“Our shelter gets about 100 dogs in each month,” Walker said. “Some of these missing dogs may be in a shelter, and people need to check. People also need to check social media. It’s a very powerful way to get the word out.”
Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said it’s almost impossible to determine whether the dogs were stolen or wandered away. The disappearances have pretty much stopped since the story aired on TV and websites in mid-January.
But Robin Lewis, the owner of a missing dog, said the group of 40 dogs missing is quickly approaching 50. People who did not report their dogs missing apparently changed their minds after seeing the stories about other missing dogs on the news, Lewis said.
The disappearance of Jack, her black Labrador Retriever, prompted Lewis to call animal shelter personnel, who told her that “too many dogs are missing, too many dogs are missing.” The family made a police report on the missing dog and then started checking Facebook posts, where they saw dozens of missing dog reports from Wise and Parker counties, Lewis said.
“One woman with three Border Collies left her house one day at about 8 a.m. and was gone about an hour,” Lewis said. “When she returned one collie was missing, another had his collar taken and another had badly injured hind legs. To me it looks like they got one and the other two fought back. The owner feels like they were watching the house until she was gone.”
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752
Keeping tabs on your dog
▪ Know where your dogs are located when outside the house.
▪ Keep back yard gates closed and if needed, put locks on the gates.
▪ When outside (excluding back yard or dog parks) always keep your dog on a leash.
▪ Have your dog microchipped so it can easily be identified if taken to a veterinarian or animal shelter or if it has been picked up by animal control.
▪ Make sure your name and phone number is on your dog’s name tag or written with a permament marker on its collar.
Source: Humane Society of North Texas, Star-Telegram research