BROOKSVILLE — Three of the five dogs reportedly stolen from kennels at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast Wednesday were recovered and returned to the shelter Friday morning.
Dennis Schoch, whose wife, Joanne, is the director of the Humane Society, said he got a call at 8 a.m. from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office saying the dogs had been found at a house on Fullington Street, about 2 miles from the shelter.
A woman at the house had been feeding two of the puppies, he said. One of the adult dogs, Smitty, was next door. Schoch said he arrived at the scene and identified the three dogs via a computer microchip in their ears.
A second adult dog, Wesson, was found dead on Wiscon and Mobley Roads, apparently hit by a car, he said.
The dogs were discovered missing early Thursday when shelter workers arrived. This was the second time in recent weeks that dogs have been taken from the shelter on Wiscon Road, fueling speculation among workers and volunteers at the facility that they are being taken to be used as "bait'' in dog fighting training.
"They only wanted smaller dogs,'' Joanne Schoch said Thursday. "The bigger ones they left behind.''
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Friday, however, emphasized there was no evidence connecting the thefts to any dogfighting activity.
Two of the three missing pit bull/Lab mix puppies were recovered Friday, as was one of the dachshunds. Volunteers spent Friday morning searching for the third puppy. Officials are also still searching for a pit bull mix named Shayna that was taken from its kennel on July 16.
At the shelter, Michelle Melady, a member of the Humane Society board of directors, was distraught. "I feel that obviously they were not taken for good intentions,'' she said. "I don't understand why people won't leave the innocent alone. This is very offensive.''
Joanne Schoch also was concerned about the shelter helpers. "As hard as this is for me, it's worse on our staff and volunteers,'' she said. "They are with the animals every day.''
The dogs were kept in unlocked kennels so that they could be removed in case of emergency. The gates to the compound are kept padlocked at night. Schoch also said that the burglary has prompted her to step up security measures at the shelter.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said that an investigation into the thefts is ongoing. Hernando County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the whoever is responsible for the burglary.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.