Two women who are in charge of animal rescue groups have been charged with stealing a family’s dogs and then taking them hundreds of miles away to try and sell them.
Police say Cynthia Durham, of Van Zandt County, and Patricia Junk, of Jackson County, Wisconsin, conspired to steal the dogs from Durham’s neighbor, and then adopt them out through Junk’s animal rescue in Wisconsin.
Durham is also president of the Van Zandt County Humane Society.
Authorities said that evidence shows Durham may have been planning to steal the dogs for days, and possibly adopt them out to make a profit.
“These were at-home, family dogs that they loved and were loved. The house is kind of empty without them,” Jeremy Housden said.
Davi and Pepper have been part of Housden’s family since last Christmas. The blue heeler pups were a gift for his three kids.
But when the family went out of town on vacation last month, and left the dogs with a dog sitter, Davi and Pepper mysteriously disappeared.
“I actually had one neighbor that had spotted a woman in front of my house,” Housden said. “He did say he’d seen the dogs in the front yard playing, and when he came back by, the car was still there, but there were no dogs.”
Housden started asking around to his neighbors, and one name came up: Cynthia Durham.
“Her stories were all over the place, and that’s when I contacted the constable’s office,” he said.
Local law enforcement said Durham eventually admitted the dogs were in Wisconsin, in the care of Patricia Junk’s rescue, Unchained K-9 Rescue and Rehab.
Davi and Pepper were even up for adoption on the rescue’s Facebook page, and they were given new names.
But Housden recognized his dogs right away.
“The picture was taken four days before they were stolen, and at that point, because I knew they had their collars. That was my front yard. They had been baiting them, and that just really, really upset me.
According to Van Zandt County Constables, Junk refused to give up the dogs.
Durham told authorities she believed the dogs were malnourished and running loose, but investigators found no evidence of abuse, and said Housden was in no way breaking the law.
“You just can’t go out here and do your own thing and say, ‘That dog’s running at-large, I’m going to load it up in my car and give it to somebody else,’” Van Zandt County Constable Jason Ison said.
Authorities said these dogs typically go for $300 each.
“People are saying they’re rescue units or organizations, and they’re really not,” Ison added. “They’re basically getting these dogs and charging a fee to the homeowners.”
Both women, who once had reputations for saving animals, are now under arrest for theft.
The dogs were later found safely, and are currently in custody in Wisconsin, awaiting transfer back home to Housden and his family.
“It’s going to make our whole family feel like they’re together again,” Housden said.
Authorities in Van Zandt County are making the 15-hour drive up to Wisconsin to go retrieve the dogs and bring them back home. They’re expected to be reunited Sunday.
Since this arrest, authorities are getting more calls from people about their stolen pets. They’re unsure if any are related to this case, but they are investigating.