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Authorities Investigate String of Dog Thefts in Waverly and Surrounding Areas

WAVERLY, N.Y. (18 NEWS)- - Local dog control officers are warning residents to keep a close eye on their pets after a string of dog thefts throughout the area. 18 News Reporter Samantha Lantz has more from one woman who fell victim to this heartbreaking crime and what authorities are saying about the investigation. 

Dogs...they're man's best friend, loyal companion, and often times a member of the family. So imagine for a minute the heartbreak you would feel if that was all one day stolen from you, right from your front porch. 

"I was panicking. I was so devastated, we all had tears in our eyes because we all thought the worst. We thought we were never going to see our dog again," Lauren Cerio said. 

Cerio, of Athens Pennsylvania describes how she felt the moment she came outside to find her beloved Spectro gone...vanished...no sign of him anywhere. She says in the 6 years she's had him, he's never ran away. She knew immediately something was wrong.

"I can't believe that somebody would just come up to your own house and take your dog from you. What could go through somebody's mind, that's like another child a dog is not just a pet, it's a family member," Cerio said. 

She drove around for hours looking, calling her neighbors and police...but it would be a post on social media that would eventually bring Spectro home. 

"I finally made a plea on Facebook saying that my husky had gone missing and I wondered if maybe someone had taken him because he is so friendly he'll come up to anybody he's not vicious at all," Cerio said. 

A day later Spectro was found more than an hour away in Appalachian. Stripped of his harness, collar, tags, and any form of identification, he was lucky to be found by a woman who had seen Cerio's post. 

"He was so happy to see me he was whining and crying you know he'd been gone for a day. It was really, really sad," Cerio said.  

Even more concerning is the fact the there's been many others like Cerio who haven't been as lucky. 

"I thought maybe somebody had targeted me just to be vicious towards me but it's happened to many people. My neighbor actually had two of their dogs taken from them," Cerio said. 

Dog Control Officer Patrick Cartwright says they're now investigating the theft of 11 dogs throughout the area since December. He posted a warning on Facebook to local dog owners in hopes that number will not continue to grow. In a statement to 18 News, Cartwright said there's been some similarities in all the cases:

"In all of these cases these were dogs that were outside on their owner's property, whether controlled by an invisible fence, in an outside run, or tethered outside." 

"There have been similar cases all over the area, and many of them have links to social media posts about animals that people feel are not cared for properly." 

Cartwright stresses that although you may think it's too cold for a dog to be outside, often times pet owners are actually within their legal limits. He says anyone stealing dogs even in an attempt to "rescue" them could face serious criminal charges. 

"While the conditions of having a dog live outside may not be what you would do, or what you would want for your pet, often times, they are not illegal, and the action of these vigilantes in their "rescue" effort is illegal."

"My dog is a husky he likes the snow if he wants to come inside he's going to bark and let us know that he wants to come inside we're not going to force the dog to stay outside when it's this cold that is cruel I agree with that," Cerio said. 

As for whoever is stealing these dogs, Cerio has just one message. 

"You're terrible. I cannot understand what would go through your mind, why you would do this to somebody's pet, it doesn't make any sense," Cerio said. 

Authorities say if you suspect animal abuse, to contact your local SPCA and never take things into your own hands. And of course 18 News will continue to follow this story and bring you any updates that become available.  

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