BILLINGS — Last week, MTN News reported on a 12-week-old puppy being stolen out of a Billings resident's yard. Neighbors are now saying that puppy was taken for its own safety.
It turns out the puppy thief thought he was a good Samaritan, but authorities say he may have broken the law. Neighbors claim the dog was taken after concerns were brought up on their neighborhood Facebook page.
"100% stealing a dog isn’t the way this should have been handled. However, when a dog who is younger than three months old is left outside in 100 degree weather without anyone checking on it for hours - what are bystanders supposed to do? We applaud the people who break windows for dogs in the heat. In my opinion - this was the same thing," said a woman who says she is the neighbor of the dog owner and identified herself as Shelbe B. on Tuesday.
The puppy ended up being taken to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter for a short period. Trasene Rowland, the owner, now has the dog back. She says the claims of neglect are false.
"My dog was walked every day. She sleeps inside in her kennel, we cook food for her, she had multiple water bowls outside. She was only outside during the morning or night when it was cool and if we were outside during the day. She had adequate shade no matter the time of the day and sprinklers going. She was fed three times a day and was always playing with either our kids or us," said Rowland.
Is stealing a dog who may be neglected ever an acceptable thing to do?
“Stealing is wrong. You should not be taking animals from people’s property. Animals are considered property and that would make it a theft," said Animal Control Supervisor Tom Stinchfield.
He also says you need to witness the situation happening to report it. If you only hear about it, you are just considered a third-party reporter.
“I have people reporting based on what they read on Facebook. We don’t take complaints like that. If you have first-hand knowledge of this happening, you need to call it in,” Stinchfield said.
The Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter does not have a say in if a dog will be returned back to its owner or not. They only house the animals, keeping them safe and fed until an investigation can be conducted.
“Their frustrations are our frustrations too. We don’t necessarily agree with how everything goes down all the time. But we answer to the city of Billings Animal Control,” said Gabi Fry with the animal shelter.
If you do suspect an animal is being neglected, especially during these hot summer days, you have to report it to Animal Control.
“All of [the reports] will be investigated. I know there’s stuff out on Facebook saying we’re not investigating and we’re not doing anything. But we are. Every case we’ll go out and investigate,” said Stinchfield.
No charges have been filed in Rowland's stolen puppy case, since they do not know who took the dog. Even if the man believed he was doing the right thing, Montana animal abuse and neglect laws say otherwise. An animal is considered property in Montana, as long as it is being provided shelter, food and water it is not being neglected.
“Basically, the laws need to change. The laws in Montana for animals are very minimal,” said Fry.