- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - Authorities and some pet owners suspect that someone has been stealing people’s dogs from their properties in central Nebraska.

Howard County Sheriff Tom Busch told The Grand Island Independent (https://bit.ly/14p16vd ) that his office has received a spate of reports since the start of December and that 11 dogs have been reported missing. Given the number reported missing and the situations his staffers have been hearing about, he said it’s not just dogs running away.

“I do believe that there’s someone taking them,” Busch said.

Law enforcement officials in Sherman and Merrick counties said they also have gotten several reports of missing dogs.

Laurie Dethloff, executive director of the Central Nebraska Humane Society in Grand Island, said her staff has heard about dogs missing nearby Howard and Adams counties.

“This is totally unique to anything that I have been aware of in the past eight years that I’ve been at the shelter,” Dethloff said.

Kristi Kleinsasser, who lives in Elba, said her family dog, Ruger, disappeared Dec. 17. She found Ruger untethered one day after she returned from work. The next day she was cleaning her house when she heard something, so she stopped work and went to check. Ruger was nowhere to be found.

At the Start Over Rover shelter in Hastings, founder Anne Halbert said she has been concerned since three dogs missing from two homes for about a month were found dead by train tracks just before Christmas. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office has said there’s no evidence of foul play.

Halbert said that since the dog carcasses were found and the news was reported, the shelter has been averaging almost a call a day from people who report that someone is trying to take their dogs.

Dethloff said that if someone is abusing animals, it is often a precursor to future problems, such as domestic abuse or other kinds of violence.

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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