On the afternoon of Feb. 22, Westminster PD Officer Jon Bell received a call regarding the theft of a puppy from the city’s animal shelter.
“There was a report of a guy that walked in and basically stole a puppy,” said Bell.
According to Cortney Dorney, director of operations at WAGS Pet Adoption, one of the shelter’s caretakers, Josh Wilkins, said a man came in and asked to see the dogs that were available for adoption.
“He was asked to sit and wait for another caretaker to escort him back to our available dog area — it’s our protocol to escort all guests to the dog yard for liability reasons,” said Dorney. “A few minutes later, [Wilkins] noticed that the gentleman was nowhere to be found and after asking the rest of the staff, and searching the entire property, was informed that he had been seen in one of our isolation areas and had left abruptly through the backyard, and then ultimately through our reception area and out the front door.”
Wilkins ran back into the isolation area to check on all of the pets and noticed that one puppy out of a litter of four — 8-week-old Bubbly, a brown terrier mix — was missing. He immediately informed Dorney that a puppy had been stolen and to call the police.
“We were shocked and had a huge pit in our stomachs,” she said.
Bell took the report and got a description of the suspect. He also saw video footage of the man leaving WAGS from a Ring security camera.
The next morning, Bell stopped by the local Starbucks to pick up some coffee and as he drove up, he saw the man.
“As I rolled through Starbucks — guess who was sitting right in front of Starbucks at the table?” said Bell.
The man matched the description and had a beach cruiser bicycle that also matched the suspect’s. And he had a brown puppy. Bell walked up and the man started gathering up his belongings as if to leave.
“‘Can I talk to you?’” Bell said he asked.
Bell said the man replied, “‘No. Why do I want to talk to you?’”
And then he ran.
“All of the sudden he just books it,” said Bell. “He has the dog in his hand. He’s running across Beach Boulevard.”
Bell put a call out to dispatch. WPD Officer Frani Echavarria was in the area when Bell broadcasted that the suspect in question was seen with the puppy.
Echavarria started driving toward the area.
“I turn on my lights and he sees me and he tries to hide behind a wall,” she said.
She pulled into the parking lot to make contact with him, “and he’s now trying to crawl away from me.”
He was detained by officers. But the puppy was nowhere in sight. The suspect said he gave the puppy to someone in a vehicle that had just left the parking lot, Echavarria said.
“I never saw a vehicle leave the parking lot,” she said.
She reviewed surveillance video from a nearby store. There she saw the suspect sprinting, but without the puppy. Based on where he was running in the video, she began searching that area for the puppy.
It was around 7 a.m. and it was very cold.
“I turned the corner and behind these trash cans, I find the little puppy,” she said. “[She’s] shivering, [she’s] whimpering.”
Echavarria picked up the puppy and took her to safety — which for the time being was with Westminster PD police dispatchers while someone from WAGS could come get her.
“It was nice to find the puppy … and dispatch was even more grateful because they got to babysit,” she said. “You see that puppy and you just feel nothing but love. … I feel happy that I could help find the dog. Touched my heart.”
Bell, who has three dogs himself, said he’s a big animal lover and very glad they found the puppy.
“We get so much joy from dogs and for someone to take that away for whatever selfish reasons they have, it’s kind of bogus,” he said. “It hits a chord.”
As for Bubbly, Dorney said she was doing great once she was back with her mom and the rest of the litter.
“I think she was happy to see her family again, for sure,” Dorney said. “We would all just like to thank Officer Bell and the WPD for responding so quickly to our 911 call when she was originally taken, putting in so much effort to help us find her, and for bringing her back home.”
Bubbly has since been adopted and is now in her new home.