Van stolen with dogs inside located; all animals accounted for: police
Published Friday, November 18, 2016 2:36PM EST Last Updated Friday, November 18, 2016 9:50PM EST
A van with 16 dogs inside stolen in downtown Toronto Friday morning has been located, Toronto police have confirmed.
The dogs were being collected by Soulmutts Toronto Ltd., a company that offers daycare services for pets. A worker with the company left the car parked outside a condo at 215 Fort York Blvd. near Bathurst Street while he picked up a client’s dog. The plan was to take all the dogs to a local dog park.
The van was left running to keep the air conditioning on but kept locked as the driver had access to a second key. However, when the worker returned, the van and the dogs were gone.
Police confirmed shortly after 8 p.m. that the van had been located on Queens Quay East. The animals were in the back of the vehicle in good health, they said.
“All dogs are accounted for,” police said in a tweet.
The man who located the van told reporters he wasn’t aware that police were on the lookout for the vehicle.
“I can just imagine (how the owners felt) losing their dogs,” Joe Farrugia said.
He said he first noticed the van in the area at around 7:30 p.m. before venturing over and making the discovery that led him to contact police.
“I’m really happy. I’m thrilled that everyone’s OK,” an unidentified owner told CP24 as she retrieved her pet.
“The dogs seem pretty happy, and don’t really know what happened today. The owners are obviously more distraught than the dogs themselves, so that’s why you got to love dogs.”
She described the hours since the dogs first went missing as “horrifying.”
“Your dogs are your best friend, and when you hear that something terrible happens, your mind goes to the worst place,” she said.
The man driving the van when it was stolen described the ordeal as a “whirlwind day.”
“I’m very, very relieved to see this van and all the dogs back,” he said. “I’m speechless right now. This is the biggest relief I could possibly see. This is one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Police had previously said they were searching for a suspect described as a white male who stands about six feet tall in connection with the theft of the van.
Officers are currently searching the van for possible evidence, Toronto police Sgt. Duane St. Jean said at the scene.
“That’s going to be a process that takes some time,” he said.
He said that investigators had received a number of tips from the public throughout the day trying to help in tracking down the missing animals.
“This has come to a successful conclusion,” St. Jean said.
Earlier Friday, the owner of the company, Alison Fordero, said investigators had told her that a number of work vehicles have gone missing from the Bathurst Street and Lake Shore Blvd area in recent weeks.
She pleaded with the perpetrator to keep the dogs safe.
“Please don’t turn off the AC,” she said in an interview with CP24. “I don’t care about the van – I just want the dogs back.”
Fordero said she had seen video surveillance from the condo building that appears to show theft unfolding.
“We did see footage of the guy. He had a bag that we assume had tools inside. We were told earlier by police that three other work-type vehicles were stolen in this area this morning,” she said. “We don’t think that’s a coincidence, we think somebody took the van thinking it might have tools or supplies or equipment to sell inside.
“If you have a heart, leave it at the police station and run away,” Fordero continued. “We just want the dogs home as soon as possible, please.”
The owners of the dogs congregated outside of the condo building where the vehicle was last seen.
A man who identified himself only as Adam told CP24 that his Siberian husky was inside the van. He said his wife emailed him to tell him their “fur baby” had been stolen.
“I really wish that the person realizes that they’ve stolen a van full of dogs and (says), ‘OK, this is probably a bad idea to open it up because there’s obviously a lot of dogs and some of them are pretty big,’” he said.
“I hope the dogs don’t get harmed in any way, shape or form. I’d be devastated, as any dog owner would be.”
Stas Dimos, whose nine-month-old Shiba Inu was inside the missing van, said he’s trying to remain optimistic.
“I think we’ll find it. I was just driving around for a few hours. I know the police are looking and a lot of the other dog owners are looking at the same time,” he told CP24.
“I don’t think someone is going to hurt the dogs. There’s a difference between stealing a car and hurting living animals and I think it’ll be OK.”