Nearly 40 dogs have reportedly vanished since November in Idaho around the area of Twin Falls, a mystery that has left local pet owners fearing that someone is targeting canines for sinister reasons.
"The dogs seem to vanish into thin air," said Debbie Blackwood, director of a Twin Falls animal shelter. She ruled out the possibility that wild animals or cars are killing dogs, according to local NBC affiliate KPVI.
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Several residents have reportedly seen people attempt to lure neighborhood dogs into vans.
"They saw them loading them in their vehicle. They let their little dog out, next thing she knows a red van pulls up and she has to race out and retrieve it," Blackwood told KPVI. "Another person said that in a black Eldorado-type car, they caught the person calling their dog over to them."
Earlier this month, a man hiking with his young daughter just outside of Twin Falls found the remains of a German shepherd that had apparently been stoned to deat
h, Reuters reported.
The dog's head was crushed with a rock and its carcass was draped in a purple cloth, in an apparent "ritualistic execution," Blackwood said.
The dog's body was found in an area known as Devil's Corral, Blackwood said.
The incident prompted the Humane Society of the United States to offer a $5,000 reward for information related to the crime.
"Animals go missing every day. What's disturbing about this trend is that there is absolutely no trace of them," said Lisa Kauffman, Idaho director of the Humane Society of the United States.
John Goodwin, HSUS' head of animal cruelty policy, said the stolen dogs were probably not used for dog fighting, noting that it is rare for dog fighters to use just any animal in the illegal rings, Reuters reported.
However, Blackwood said she has seen signs that some of the dogs have been used for dog fighting.
"There have been some [dogs] found with [their] mouth duct-taped shut and then their teeth had been filed off before that so they couldn’t fight back and were used to train dogs as bait dogs," she said.
Bait dogs are smaller breeds used to train other dogs to become accustomed to attacking canines in the ring. Bait dogs are usually restrained in the process, unable to defend or protect themselves from the more aggressive dog. If they survive, their injuries, both physical and emotional, are often so severe that shelters are forced to humanely euthanize them.
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A Twin Falls spokesman, Josh Palmer, told Reuters that city officials were in the process of consulting with animal welfare organizations on how to proceed about the missing dogs.
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