VANCOUVER – Somehow, the story of a dog walker who said six dogs were stolen from her truck just didn’t add up for Alesha McLelland and her husband Al McLelland.
Police said the woman told them she’d left the animals for a few minutes to use the washroom at a park in Langley, B.C., and when she returned the dogs were gone.
The dog walker told police she spent hours looking for the animals last Tuesday and dreaded the thought of telling their owners they were missing, RCMP said.
Six days later, the McLellands, who run the dog-tracking company Petsearchers Canada, said they came to their own conclusion — one they hoped wouldn’t be true.
Alesha McLelland said that on Monday, her husband called the woman they had already spoken with and asked if she’d meet for coffee. That’s when, she said, Al McLelland heard a different account of what happened.
The dog walker told Al McLelland that after she discovered the dogs dead in her vehicle she had a panic attack and disposed of the animals, Alesha McLelland said.
“We had suspected there was something more to the story so we weren’t shocked, but I will say we were disappointed,” she said Tuesday. “We had hoped that there was a chance that if something bad had happened that there would maybe be one or two or three of them stashed somewhere. We were hoping the story wouldn’t be as tragic as it really was.”
No charges have been laid against the dog walker. RCMP said they were investigating the woman on possible public mischief charges, and the SPCA is looking at potential animal-cruelty charges.
Alesha McLelland said the dog walker was very upset.
The Canadian Press tried to contact the woman but was unsuccessful.
The bodies of the six dogs were found dumped in a ditch in Abbotsford, B.C., the SPCA said Tuesday. Police said it was believed the six animals died in the back of the vehicle in the heat of the day.
McLelland said the woman had been walking at least one of the dogs for several years and that all the owners have had to deal with a double blow.
“They’re understandably very angry, very hurt, and shocked that this could happen. Not only the fact that their dogs met their demise in the vehicle but what happened the week after, that it was dragged out for as long as it was and causing a lot more pain than necessary.”
Others, who’d banded together to look for the dogs, feel duped.
“So many people, initially upon the initial report coming out, invested time and effort into helping look for the dogs and coming to the rally. We had people drive from Chilliwack to Vancouver to pick up posters to put in their neighbourhood, believing that the dogs had been stolen,” McLelland said of the community that’s about an hour-and-half drive from the city.
“A lot of people started to care about these dogs and so finding out that all of that effort and worry and caring that they’d had over the last week … people are understandably upset.”
Lorie Chortyk of the SPCA, which took over the investigation Monday after retrieving the dogs’s bodies, said the results of necropsies are expected within a week and will determine how long the dogs were left in a vehicle.
The necropsy results, along with interviews with the dog walker and any witnesses, will be part of the SPCA’s report to Crown counsel, which will decide if animal-cruelty charges will be laid.
The temperature was as high as 25 C May 13, when the dog walker left the dogs, including one of her own, in her truck.
Animals don’t have sweat glands and can be overcome with heat exhaustion, brain damage or even death in as little as 10 minutes because the temperature in a car can rise so quickly, even on an overcast day, Chortyk said.
“We really do want to warn people that leaving windows open, leaving water, that is not going to help the situation. If an animal’s in a hot car you’ve put them in danger.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly reported the name as Chortnyk instead of Chortyk