In July, Jeremy Housden’s family took a vacation and left their dogs, Davi and Pepper, in care of a sitter. During the family’s absense the sitter reported letting the dogs out one day when they mysteriously disappeared.
Upon returning home Housden started asking around and letting people know the dogs were missing. Someone driving by Housden’s reported seeing a vehicle out in front of the home and the dogs outside in the yard. When they drove past again the car was still there, with someone inside, but the dogs were nowhere to be seen.
After making further inquiries the name Cynthia Durham kept coming up. Durham is president of the Van Zandt County Humane Society in Edom, Texas.
Housden contacted authorities and advised them of the situation. After doing his own investigation Constable Jesse Ison contacted and interviewed Durham.
Durham admitted to authorities that she had taken the dogs believing they were neglected. She then transported both dogs to another animal rescue, Unchained K-9 Rescue & Rehab in Merrillan, Wisconsin, owned and operated by Patricia Finch-Junk.
Durham’s accusation of the dogs being neglected was later disproved.
Ison was able to locate Junk’s organization on Facebook and found pictures of Housden’s dogs posted there as “available soon” four days before they were stolen.
Houston immediately recognized his dogs in the post.
“The picture was taken four days before they were stolen, and at that point, because I knew they had their collars. That was my front yard. They had been baiting them, and that just really, really upset me,” said Housden.
Authorities believe the dogs were stolen to be resold at profit under the guise of rescue.
“People are saying they’re rescue units or organizations, and they’re really not,” Isonstated. “They’re basically getting these dogs and charging a fee to the homeowners.”
Van Zandt County Humane Society issued this statement on their Facebook page after the story hit all the news outlets.
Cynthia Durham, 61, was booked into the Van Zandt County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor theft of property between $750 and $2,500 charge. She has since bonded out.
When Junk was originally contacted by authorities she refused to cooperate and would not give up the dogs.
Patricia Finch-Junk, 53, was later arrested and released by the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in Wisconsin.
Unchained K-9 Rescue & Rehab’s Facebook page has since been deactivated.
Sunday, Davi and Pepper were reunited with their family.
It is rare that a reunion would take place under such circumstances. Many times pet owners do not discover that a shelter or rescue has possession of their pets, and when they do, it’s almost impossible to reclaim them once they’ve been adopted out or transported to another organization. Often times the animal(s) has been moved out of the area and can get lost in the system. Sometimes, organizations will just flat out refuse to cooperate leaving pet owners no possibility of ever locating their lost pet.
Since the incident became public Van Zandt County authorities have received numerous calls about other missing pets that could be connected to Durham. Local authorities have vowed to look into every single case.
“Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family,” said Ison. “Stealing someone’s family pet is absolutely unacceptable. We will not tolerate animal theft or any other crimes being committed against our citizens in this county.”