7/23/14

Getting Corky Back

Seems like not a month goes by in Bay Ridge that you don't see a "LOST DOG" flyer on a tree or a light pole with a photo of the unfortunate missing family pet.

As NBC Local observed, instances of  "dog flipping" -- stealing and re-selling pets -- in New York City rose by nearly 30% in 2013, with thieves sometimes taking purebred puppies right from pet shops.

According to the American Kennel Club, purebred dog theft is rising nationally. In 2012, the AKC reported 444 cases of dog theft, up from 255 cases in 2010.

What happens to stolen dogs? The thieves may keep the dogs themselves or give them as gifts; flip them; sell them for bait to dog fight operations; bunch and sell them to research laboratories; or hold them as hostages until their owners pay their ransom demands.

The AKC recommends never letting a purebred dog off its leash and never leaving it outside in the city. Owners of purebreds who leave them on the street are basically asking for it, says the AKC, given the high price these dogs can command on the black market. 

What does it take to get a stolen dog back?  Here's the dramatic first-person story of how one Brownstone Brooklyn family tracked down and recovered Corky, its stolen 3-year-old Maltese.

Tied out for less than a minute while the owner went back inside for a forgotten item, 6-lb Corky disappeared from in front of the family home on 9th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Gowanus.

Realizing Corky had been taken, the family combed the nearby streets, finding out at a 5th Avenue Petland that a man and a woman, carrying a dog and apparently high, had come in with their daughter to buy a leash. Based on the description, the dog was Corky.

That same day, people carrying a dog that fit Corky's description were caught trying to steal supplies from another Sunset Park Petland.

Others said they had seen these vagabonds around the neighborhood.

Corky's owners worked the case 24/7, combing the area and putting up black-and-white flyers. Next day, with the search still on, the owners got a call from someone who had been approached on 5th Avenue in Sunset Park by a man trying to sell the Maltese he was carrying for $150.00.

With the help of a copy shop angel, Corky's owners mounted new color flyers featuring photos of Corky with his family, which got a better response from the public. Tips started to come in. Based on a tip from a man who knew the thieves, the owners learned that they frequented the local Methadone clinics and habitually stole and flipped family pets for drug money.

By now, the owners' neighborhood, including bus drivers, sanit men, mail carriers, firefighters, school kids, and even drug users, was on the lookout for Corky. Ads were up on Craigslist, the local newspapers, local free papers, Petfinders.com, Pets Missing In Action, and other sites.  And every dog walker in the area was keeping an eye peeled for Corky.

The public response to the family's search included prayers, words of encouragement, ideas, and even offers to help in the search for Corky.

The original tipster, who stayed in touch with the family, gave them the names and descriptions of the thieves and the locations of the Methadone clinics they frequented.  Eventually, the tipster called a face-to-face meeting with the owners. When they met up with him, they were taken to the infamous Marcy Projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the thieves lived.

The owners boldly staked out the thieves' apartment building.  At some point, the husband met a tenant who knew someone who lived in the same building as the thieves. Early next morning, the husband went to the building to try to buy information.  The helpful tenant eventually located Corky by entering the building and listening at doors until he heard a dog behind one of them.

The owner then sent the tenant back into the building with money to buy Corky. Going back in with $500 in cash, the tenant returned in about 15 minutes carrying a scared, dirty Corky, still wearing his tags.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to sign new legislation upping fines for mistreating or stealing companion animals from $200 to $1,000. Passed by the State Assembly and Senate in June, the legislation marks the first time in 40 years that penalties for pet-stealing have been raised. Under the existing law, pet-nappers could be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail.

Lawmakers see the higher fines as a deterrent to surging pet theft.

Right.

I can imagine some junkie weighing his options:

"Hmmmm, steal that Lhasa Apso over there, flip it and use the money to get high, or worry that I might possibly get caught for dognapping and fined a thousand dollars."

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