Staff at the Joplin Humane Society say they are hopeful a dog that was stolen from the shelter on Tuesday may soon be found thanks to the power of social media.
Lillie McCoy, a senior pit bull mix, was allegedly stolen at around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, shortly before the shelter closed for the day, by two male suspects who cut through a lock, shelter director Connie Andrews said. Lillie is about 6 or 7 years old and has vision problems in one of her eyes due to cataracts.
“We had secured the building around 4:30 p.m., and then apparently they had cut the lock on one of the gates after we had checked it,” Andrews said. “They just went right out the side gate and were gone. Thankfully, I feel like we’ve had a couple good leads from people. We’re going to get that dog back because she deserves to have a good home. I’m not going to give up on this.”
The shelter announced the incident on its Facebook page Wednesday morning with pictures of the suspects taken from its security cameras and asked the public for help. Within an hour, shelter staff say, they had received credible leads.
Andrews said staff believe Lillie was snatched by a former owner who didn't want to pay $234 in fees to reclaim the dog. She said the shelter contacted the former owner several times about picking her up.
“People steal dogs for many different reasons,” she said. “They may have been on a court hold because they bit someone, so we’re holding them for authorities. A lot of times, they don’t have the money to reclaim them. I was worried for her safety because I didn’t know who had taken her. She’s an older dog that has problems seeing, and she’s our pet, so she’s like our own dog.”
With a possible identification of the suspects, the shelter's Facebook post has since been removed from its page, and local law enforcement has been notified.
“We had a feeling it might have been a previous owner that had stolen the dog because they knew exactly where they were going,” Andrews said. “It’s not like they came in randomly looking for a dog. With that said, no one’s going to steal our dogs. I don’t care if you’re a previous owner or not.”
Maranda Carroll, intake coordinator at the shelter, said Lillie had been brought to them on Dec. 12 by Joplin animal control officers, who had found her running around town. Lillie had been with the Joplin Humane Society for at least 34 days, longer than the minimum amount of time stray animals are held at the shelter for owner reclamation, and was scheduled to be transported to a rescue group in Kansas City on Wednesday morning.
Issues of theft at the shelter have occurred before. Andrews, who has been with the shelter for 11 years, said she can think of a handful of times when people have tried to steal back their dogs. It's usually about money, Andrews said, but adoption fees are set because of the high cost of food, vaccines and other care incurred by the shelter during the animals' stay there.
The shelter had not filed a police report on the incident as of Wednesday morning.