The dognappers posed as volunteers, walked dogs for about an hour, picked out the three-legged pit bull and then took him.
NIMISHILLEN TWP. The Stark County Humane Society says one of its dogs has been stolen by people posing as volunteer dog walkers — and the agency wants him back.
"We need to know he's OK," said Jackie Godbey, executive director of the agency. "We need to know where he's at."
Donovan is a 5-year-old male pit bull with a light brown coat and white chest. He also has only three legs.
"We need to know why they took him, and they need to know the personality of Donovan," Godbey said. "Outside the cage, he runs and plays, and you'd never know he only has three legs. Inside the cage, he is a little grumpy sometimes."
Godbey said the suspects came the afternoon of Feb. 27 like any other volunteer. The list of volunteers ranges from five to 30 each day. So hundreds of people volunteer to "walk a dog, love a cat, fold a towel, do something..." each year, Godbey said.
And while no one seemed to know the couple, no one questioned their presence.
Reviewing security video, she said, the couple can be seen walking some dogs. Both suspects are white and appear to be in their late 20s or early 30s. The man was wearing a hat, a plaid shirt and black pants. The woman is wearing a pink T-shirt and black leggings. She is about 5 feet, 3 inches tall with short, dark curly hair.
"They just seem like a normal couple. They were here for about an hour," Godbey said, noting that the couple seemed to familiar with the facility. "They knew which door to go out and which way to come back in ... not across the parking lot. I don't know if they just jumped in and followed everybody else's lead, but I actually talked to the gentleman briefly outside and he said, 'You used to sign my community service papers.' I told him that must've been years ago; I don't get to sign that many now. A lot of times when people come in through the court, they'll come back and volunteer."
Video shows the couple walking dogs into the play area. At some point, the man left Donovan in the outdoor kennel, shutting the gate and walking over to talk to the woman, Godbey said.
The video shows what happened next: The woman returned her dog inside, retrieved Donovan's paperwork from his empty kennel and then headed for the parking lot. At the same time, the man returned to Donovan, refastened his leash and began to walk toward the facility. Then he turned, walking the dog to an orange, older-model, two-door Chevrolet Blazer that featured a fifth wheel on the back.
The vehicle left the parking lot.
Sometime later, another volunteer noticed Donovan's cage was empty and his paperwork was gone. He asked if Donovan had been adopted.
The dog was well-known at the Humane Society because he'd been a guest twice.
Donovan was a stray when he was hit by a car in Tuscarawas Township on Dec. 31, 2015, Godbey said. His leg was so badly broken, the veterinarian had to remove it.
He was adopted back out on July 26, 2016, but the Stark County Dog Warden's Office obtained him at some point.
"I don't know if he was a stray or an owner/guardian surrender, but he came back (to the Humane Society) on Dec. 27, 2017," Godbey said. He's been there ever since then — until last week.
"He's a nice dog," she said. "It worries me how and why they did this. If they would've just talked to us.... Our adoption fees are only $60 to $90, and our return to owner fee is only $20. I just don't understand why (they did this)."
And she wants him back.
"We just need to know the dog's OK. We need to know who they are and why they took him. I want him to find a home that knows him, that understands him and that has enough respect for the shelter to do it the proper way. You can't just walk into an agency and say, 'I want this' and take it out."
She said anyone with information about the dog's whereabouts or the couple or their vehicle should call Stark County Sheriff's deputies at 330-430-3800 or the tipline at 330-430-3697.
Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @lsteineckREP