Pet Tales: Thor case puts focus on the proper ways to protect a dog

What kind of person would steal a dog?

There's a tragic twist, or two, to the tangled tale of Thor, who was reported stolen the day after Thanksgiving. The 8-year-old Siberian husky was owned and loved by a man battling stage 3 esophageal cancer. Mark Boehler learned March 20 that the woman accused of stealing his dog had Thor euthanized by a veterinarian Feb 10.

While Mr. Boehler searched for his dog, a Siberian husky was turned in to a local shelter. He was there from Nov. 29 until Dec. 11, when he was claimed by the woman who had taken him there -- Gisele Paris, 57, of Spring Hill-City View.

On Feb. 20, police arrested Ms. Paris. This is a matter of public record. People are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, so I'm trying to be careful here. People who are furious and brokenhearted about Thor have been damning Ms. Paris on talk radio and on social media. They want her to be jailed -- or worse. She'll have her day in Pittsburgh Municipal Court April 24.

Now let's go back to the beginning of this story. It's complicated, so bear with me.

On Nov. 26, Kathy Hecker, a humane agent with Animal Friends, got a complaint about a dog not getting proper care. The telephone caller identified herself as Susan Elliott, but Ms. Hecker thinks the woman was Ms. Paris.

On Nov. 27, Ms. Hecker made a house call to investigate. She talked with Mr. Boehler and determined that the dog was getting the food, shelter and veterinary care required by law. She said Thor spent part of his time inside with his owner and part in a yard with an A-frame doghouse that provided good shelter. He had a tumor near his buttocks but Mr. Boehler said surgery was planned in the near future. Thor was wearing a collar with a rabies tag from his veterinarian.

On Nov. 29, the day that Mr. Boehler reported his dog stolen, Ms. Paris took an older Siberian husky to the Animal Rescue League, according to Dan Rossi, executive director of the shelter in Larimer. She said it was a stray. The dog had no collar, tags or microchip ID, and no one called looking for him, Mr. Rossi said.

Shelters by law must hold strays for only 48 hours. Animal Rescue League kept the husky for 13 days, although the staff didn't think he was adoptable because he was older, had a tumor and had trouble walking, Mr. Rossi said. The dog was not starved or malnourished, according to Mr. Rossi and Ms. Hecker.

Ms. Paris came back for the dog Dec. 11.

On Jan. 10, Ms. Hecker received a call from a veterinarian who said Ms. Paris had brought a husky to his clinic. He recognized the dog because Thor was his patient; Mr. Boehler had recently brought him in to have a benign tumor removed. The vet told Ms. Paris that Mr. Boehler was looking for his dog. Ms. Paris insisted she was the dog's owner and took him home.

Following an investigation, Pittsburgh police arrested Ms. Paris Feb. 20 and charged her with theft and receiving stolen property. Thor was not at her house and Ms. Paris would not tell police where they could find him. When she fought and struggled with officers, they added a charge of aggravated assault, which is a felony. Ms. Paris spent eight days in jail until her bail was posted.

Earlier this month, police learned that Ms. Paris had paid a veterinarian to come to her home Feb. 10 to euthanize Thor.

Earlier this week, Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office, said they planned to charge Ms. Paris with animal cruelty because "we believe her actions were malicious." No charges will be filed against the veterinarian because "we believe the veterinarian acted responsibly."

Ms. Paris has not been talking to reporters. Her attorney, Robert Mielnick, told the Post-Gazette: "There's more to this than is out there." He also said, "I believe she was justified in everything she did."

There are gaps in this story. Hopefully, those questions will be answered in court.

To get back to the question of who would steal a dog. ...

Pets are sometimes stolen by people who decide it is not getting proper care. Ms. Hecker says Animal Friends has gotten four reports of that kind of theft in the past 12 months.

In 2007, Tammy Sneath Grimes was convicted in Blair County of stealing a 19-year-old dog that she said was chained outside and not receiving proper care. She was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and one year probation and had to pay the costs of her trial.

Owners called the dog Jake, and they wanted him back. Ms. Grimes called him Doogie, refused to return him and said he died in a "foster home" some months before her trial.

Ms. Grimes founded Dogs Deserve Better, a group that thinks it should be illegal to chain or tether a dog for 24 hours per day. She has many fans and followers who supported her throughout her trial and an appeal, which she lost. She now goes by the name Tamira Ci Thayne.

There are laws to protect dogs and laws to protect dog owners. It's not illegal to keep a dog outside on a tether or inside a fence. If you think an animal is being abused or neglected, call a shelter or police. You don't steal a dog because the owner's care isn't up to your standards.

People brag on social media that sometimes "you just have" to remove a dog from a "bad" situation. Before you applaud those people, keep in mind that the dog they steal could be yours.

My advice is keep a close watch over the dogs you love and have them microchipped. Shelters, police departments and veterinarians scan pets for identification chips, which can get a lost or stolen animal back to the rightful owner. They can be purchased for as little as $15-$20 at clinics at many shelters.

Dog shows

The Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association dog shows will be April 5-6 at the Monroeville Convention Center. Look for more details in Pet Tales next week.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064.