Imagine this, you just get in from a hard days work and you immediately let Sparky out back to take care of business. You give him three minutes or so to finish up and open the door for him, but Sparky is not at the step waiting to come back inside. You run through the yard shouting “Sparky, Sparky come here boy” you even try your secret whistle but Sparky is NO where in sight. You suddenly notice the gate is open and Sparky has disappeared….

This is the nightmare that many Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale residents have faced. Since January 27th, approximately 15 dogs in these areas have disappeared. Two of the fifteen dogs were stolen during a home burglary, while others have been stolen from back yards, or right from the arms of the owner.

The first disappearance on January 27th, 2007 of Buddy Tarantola captured my attention. While it hit home because they are dear friends of mine, I could not fathom how someone could be so cruel. Buddy was the victim of a home burglary, and will continue to haunt us all, as well as all the other innocent, helpless little animals that have been exploited. Since that day, I began monitoring each unexplained disappearance. The target: smaller purebreds pooches, like Yorkies, Shih Tzus, Malteses, Chihuahuas and Daschunds. These dogs are so small that they can fit into a knapsack or a jacket pocket.

These designer pooches are valued from $200 – $1,800 on the street. Typically, the thief holds out hoping the reward increases, while the owner is frantically posting flyers, calling shelters, vets and groomers and basically losing sleep. One dog owner actually quit her job, as she could not focus on anything other then her missing pooches. Several weeks go by then the call comes in “we think we have your dog”. Like Lisa and Rodney Connolly, Maryann D’Angelo, Susan Roberti, Keith Feldman and Nick Hallam their first question will be, “Is my baby ok?” However, the first question asked to each of the owners was “HOW MUCH IS THE REWARD? These owners were extorted for substantial amounts of money ranging from $200 – $3,000 dollars. The thief then goes on to explain that he/she took the dog to the vet and had to purchase food and accessories. In two situations, the owners were presented with vet bills, only to find out several days later that the bills were fake.

Others have not been as fortunate, like Steve & Diana Tarantola, Anotonia Traina, Roxanne Jackson, Mike Serrano and Ever Vaca, who still search internet sites such as and and continue to post flyers in hopes of finding their loved ones.

It’s still uncertain where these little ones ended up, many have speculated that dogs are sold to research labs for study or sold to dog fighting rings for bait, while others still believe they are used for breeding in order to make a quick buck. The market for a smaller designer dog today is astronomical, as they are much easier to maintain. Let’s face it: those little furry ones can really win your heart.

The bottom line is that you cannot take your eyes off your companion animal for one minute.

Ways to help keep our furry ones safe:
– As a pet owner you need to utilize the same protocol and safety guidelines you would as if it were your child, i.e. don’t leave him in the car while you shop, don’t tie his leash outside a store while you’re inside dining
– If you let your pet out to take care of business, go with him, keep your eyes on him at all times
– If you can, have someone accompany you when taking your dog out for a daily walk
– Be sure to keep a collar on him with tags that have your contact information
– Should your dog be micro chipped, be sure the chip is registered to your name, and that the company has your current information

More importantly, as a community we can also make a difference. We need to be that nosy neighbor who investigates a strange sound because when we leave it up to the cops they come up short; they can't do it all and so morally we all have a responsibility to our fellow neighbors and that includes our furry ones.

If your dog is stolen, you must file a police report at your local precinct, and also call 311 to file a lost/stolen dog report.

These heartless thieves are clearly preying on the emotions of pet owners.

Be aware, be cautious and be responsible when it comes to your pet.