Video shows alleged dog theft at Los Lunas animal shelter

Crime

A county animal shelter says social media helped track down a couple of guys who took a dog without permission. 

Valencia County Animal Control says the dog was being held on a case involving hundreds of dollars in fees, but that didn’t stop one of the suspects from sneaking the dog out the back door. 

“It’s been a pretty chaotic day around here,” said Valencia County Animal Control Director Jess Weston of the Wednesday incident. 

In the middle of a morning crowd, Weston says two guys who asked to look at dogs ended up pulling a dog heist. 

“They decided it was a better idea to steal the dog from the shelter,” said Weston. 

Just after 10 a.m., Weston says the men walked in the shelter’s front doors, spoke to staff, signed up and went to the back. Weston says during a surge of customers, the names of the two men weren’t verified with ID cards. 

“It was a busy time in the shelter, so they kind of sneaked through without my staff,” said Weston. 

Moments later, surveillance cameras caught one of the men walking out the back door of the shelter with a 2-to-3-year-old male pit bull mix on a leash. The shelter says the man did not have permission to take the dog. 

“They came in and stole the dog,” said Weston. 

Weston says the dog is tied to a Los Lunas Animal Control case and has racked up fees coming in and out of the pound as a stray. Weston believes the dog was taken to avoid a price. 

“The fees and fines are topping $600,” said Weston. 

The shelter says the only reason staff was able to get such a good lead on their suspects is because of their surveillance cameras.  

The surveillance images hit social media around 11 a.m., garnering more than 1,000 shares on Facebook and dozens of comments.  

By roughly 2 p.m., Weston says Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputies and Los Lunas Police had the dog back in their custody and two suspected charged. However, Weston says the people who had the dog did something unusual before authorities had control. 

“They tried to throw the dog over the fence into the neighbor’s yard,” said Weston. 

The dog was returned to the Valencia County Animal Shelter’s care Wednesday afternoon. The shelter says it was not hurt. Animal Control couldn’t show the dog to KRQE News 13 Wednesday because it says the animal remains on a hold with the Village of Los Lunas. 

KRQE News 13 spoke to dog owner Ashleigh Garner at the Valencia County Animal Shelter Wednesday about the case. She called the incident “ridiculous.” 

“I mean, fees are nothing, they’re going to work with you, either way, they’re here to work with us,” said Ashleigh Garner. “I mean if it wasn’t for them, our dogs wouldn’t have anywhere to go.” 

The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office says two men, Adan Ornelas and Frank Vasco, have been charged in the case. The department says both are facing a misdemeanor “larceny of a dog” charge. 

The Sheriff’s Office was unable to tell KRQE News 13 Wednesday exactly who owns the dog. 

Valencia County Animal Controls says its quick acting staff is being credited for allowing authorities to get on the case quickly. Weston says staff figured out something was wrong within about a minute of the dog going missing. 

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