Two teenage girls got an unpleasant surprise after they allegedly stuffed a Chihuahua into a backpack and ran out of Thurston County Animal Services on Martin Way on Wednesday afternoon.
Shelter volunteers, staffers and patrons sprang into action to rescue Machoman, an 8- or 9-month-old stray who was found on Golf Club Road in Lacey and brought to the shelter July 10.
Elizabeth Nelson, a 24-year-old shelter volunteer, said she ran after the two suspects, aged 14 and 17, after customers yelled that there might be a theft in progress. Nelson said the teens stopped when she caught up with them near the VFW hall on Martin Way.
“I yelled at them,” she said. “They stopped and they said that it was their cat, and they wouldn’t let me look in the backpack.”
A customer who was at the shelter with her young daughter about 12:45 p.m. to donate dog food and other items already had followed the suspects in her own vehicle. The alert mom cut the suspects off, got out of her car, and snatched the backpack away from one of the girls, Nelson said.
Machoman was in the backpack, scared but OK.
In the meantime, another Animal Services employee, Trude Lampman, had called police. The two teens were detained by police.
The 14-year-old has two active arrest warrants and she had a preliminary appearance in Thurston County Juvenile Court set for Thursday on suspicion of a juvenile count of third-degree theft. The 17-year-old, reportedly a runaway, was not arrested.
When Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Megan Winder was asked whether the 17-year-old might face theft charges, she replied that the case remains under investigation.
On Thursday, Machoman was back in his kennel, awaiting adoption. After the attempted dognapping, “he was pretty freaked out,” Nelson said.
The suspects had said they couldn’t afford Machoman’s adoption fee of $81, Animal Services Director Susanne Beauregard said. But Beauregard suspects that the girls were stealing the dog so they could sell him. Macho could fetch up to $500 or $600, she added.
“It’s just scary, and you don’t know what they were planning to do with him,” Beauregard said. “They put the dog through something that the dog definitely didn’t want to go through.”
Beauregard said her employees and the woman who was there to donate items to the shelter “did a wonderful job” in preventing Machoman’s abduction.
“Hopefully the girls are going to get help and we got our dog back and he’s going to get a nice home,” she said.
There’s about one attempted dog theft each year at the facility, Beauregard said. Last year, someone stole a bulldog by holding him over a fence in the outdoor “acquaintance area” and passing him to someone else waiting in a car. The dog was recovered through outreach efforts using social media, and Animal Services employee Dustin Wade’s combing of downtown Olympia, Animal Services staffers said.
That theft prompted Animal Services to enclose the acquaintance area with a plastic roof, and to install surveillance cameras in the kennels, Beauregard said.