Six dogs once believed to have been stolen from a dog walker, and possibly even held for ransom, are now confirmed to be dead, killed after being left in the back of an overheated vehicle belonging to the same person, police say, who once claimed the dogs had vanished.
The case of six missing canines has captured the attention of the Langley, B.C., area after they were reportedly stolen while in the care of their dog walker last Tuesday. The disappearance of Molly the pit bull, Teemo the poodle, Buddy the Boston terrier, Oscar the Rottweiler mix, Salty the border collie and Molly the blue heeler, prompted a massive rescue effort.
At one point during the search, publicity had reached such a state that one owner was targeted by a fake ransom demand. It is a heartbreaking scenario first believed to be the case of a set of stolen dogs, but it has since been confirmed that the six dogs died.
According to Pet Searchers Canada, a group that had been assisting in the search for the presumably stolen dogs, the dog walker in question confessed over the weekend to lying about the theft after going into a "blind panic" over the idea of telling the owners their dogs were dead.
A statement reads that the woman admitted that the dogs were in the back of her vehicle, with water available and a side vent window open.
"Sometime during the outing, all six dogs perished from heatstroke. Upon arriving at the location and (her) seeing her beloved charges deceased, she went into a blind panic at the thought of notifying the families and the possible repercussions," reads the statement.
"In a complete state of shock and panic, Emma made a desperate attempt to cover up what had happened and concocted a story to explain the loss of the dogs."
The group went on to describe the dog walker as a "single mom dealing with many major stresses in her life." Previously, the dog owners voiced support for the woman, claiming that she felt terrible about the missing dogs and shouldn’t be blamed.
But the narrative changed starkly over the weekend. It is no longer a case of a dutiful confidant targeted by vigilante dognappers. It is the case of a potentially negligent and allegedly careless employee who appears to have panicked and lied after the dogs in her care suffered and perished.
Here is how quickly and drastically the story changed.
The RCMP released a statement last Wednesday, calling for the public to help in the search for six dogs, believed to have been stolen out of the closed rear hatch of a pickup truck near a Langley, B.C. dog park.
This week, they released a new statement confirming that the dogs had never been stolen.
Sadly, Langley RCMP can now confirm the six dogs that went missing on Tuesday of last week are deceased.
The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been laid at this time. Police believe the six dogs perished in the back of the dog walker's vehicle in the heat of the day.
The bodies of the dogs have been located and will be recovered by the SPCA.
The RCMP says they continue to investigate and are considering a charge of public mischief - related to the allegation that the dog walker falsely claimed the dogs had been stolen.
Questions about the alleged mistreatment of those dogs will be investigated by the B.C. SPCA. An SPCA spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
In a cruel irony, the B.C. SPCA released a public warning about the danger of heatstroke on the same day that the RCMP began their public search for the presumably missing dogs.
“When the days get warmer we get hundreds of emergency calls to rescue dogs whose lives are endangered because they are left in hot cars by their guardians,” spokesperson Lorie Chortyk said in a statement released last week. “Many well-meaning guardians leave their dogs unattended in parked cars while they run errands. Tragically, this can lead to serious heatstroke and even death for their pets.”
There seems to have been an increase in how often pets have been left in hot cars in recent years. Several times a year, reports of pets dying or suffering sympoms of heatstroke are reported across Canada.
Last summer, Wal-Marts across Canada posted signs reminding customers not to leave dogs and children alone in hot cars.
In some cases, the dog's owners are charged with failing to provide quality care to pets who have been found left in cars.
This case is slightly different, however. In this instance, it was a hired caregiver alleged to have left the dogs in danger. Those charges could still apply, but there is also the question of what the dog owners will do. Now that the dogs are confirmed to be dead, rather than stolen, their once-supportive owners may have a change of heart.
In Canada, dog sitters and walkers are required to register as a business, and obtaining insurance that provide coverage in the case of death, injury or property destruction is also recommended.
The Verge Insurance Group and Binks are two Canadian companies that offer insurance for those running a canine service business, such as dog walkers or pet sitters. Both companies offer coverage for fees related to pet deaths. In some cases, that coverage can reach $500,000.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, a non-profit focused on ensuring standards in the pet care industry, says dog owners should taken steps to make sure they are dealing with trustworthy caregivers.
"It comes down to consumer education. You've got to do your research," communications coordinator Susan Dankert told Yahoo Canada News.
"If you are looking for a pet sitter or a dog walker, you want to do your research to make sure you found someone who will properly care for your animal. It is about an active and engaged pet owner."
The fallout from the dog deaths is still coming, but it could be bad for the dog walker. Charges are possible, an SPCA investigation is ongoing, and sympathy has been frayed by the previous claim that the dogs had been stolen.