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Alleged dog napper says she was trying to help

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 14, 2014 - 2:13 PM |

Vet refutes claim dog suffered from negligence

A woman who says she is the person involved in a dog-napping case late last week has spoken with NorthernLife.ca. But in Heather Zeffer's version of events, it was not a theft, but a rescue.

The story involves a Sudbury family that got more than they bargained for April 9 when reviewing footage from security cameras placed around their Riverside Drive home in effort to locate their missing dog.


The Haskett family saw footage of two people attempting to gain access to their home and then making off with a dog that appears to be their nine-year-old long-haired German shepherd, Partner.

What's more, when social media tips led them to the alleged dog-napper, they filmed the dramatic confrontation on their cellphone.

The story created a furor on NorthernLife.ca and Facebook this past weekend, as thousands of people wondered how the bizarre tale would play out.

In an interview with NorthernLife.ca this morning, Zeffer admitted to taking the dog, but stopped short of saying she broke into the family's home to do so.

Although they haven't released her name, on April 13 Greater Sudbury Police charged a 50-year-old woman with break, enter and theft, possession of property obtained by crime and mischief in relation to the incident. She was released with a promise to appear in court May 21.

Zeffer said she'd phoned both the Sudbury SPCA and Rainbow District Animal Control (which does not handle abuse calls, a representative told NorthernLife.ca) on numerous occasions with concerns about Partner's treatment, saying the dog was often tied up on a short leash in a feces-riddled yard. She also believed he had medical issues.

“I do something where I take a dog, try to get it healed and fixed, and I'm the bad person,” she said.

The Sudbury SPCA did not return Northern Life's calls by press time Monday, but the Baxter Animal Clinic, where Zeffer said she brought the dog for treatment April 10, did.

While Zeffer said clinic staff found the dog had ear mites and mange, when contacted by Northern Life, veterinary technician Ashley Kinach said Partner had neither of those conditions.

"Overall, he was in good health," Kinach said, adding the dog did not appear to have been abused or neglected.

She said he did have a bacterial ear infection (which the Hasketts were treating) and the beginnings of a small skin infection on his belly, but neither was worrisome.

The technician said Zeffer told her she'd gotten the dog from a man who had rescued it from a “negligent situation.”

Zeffer also told Northern Life she brought the dog to Puppy Love Pet Salon and Spa for grooming. Maggie Pan, the salon owner, said Zeffer told her she'd rescued the dog from a “hoarding” situation.

Because Zeffer claimed the dog had mange, Pan shaved off most of his fur, as that would be the only way to access the area for treatment.

But after shaving the dog, she too said it didn't look like he had the skin condition Zeffer claimed he did.

Pan said she believes Zeffer's intentions were good, as a German shepherd probably shouldn't be tied up outside on a short leash, in her opinion.

“Now does that give somebody the right to go and take someone's dog?” she said. “No, not at all.”

The investigation continues, as police are now looking for a man who was also allegedly involved in the break and enter.

Neil Haskett said he and wife Tabatha and their four children arrived at their Riverside Drive home shortly after 6 p.m. on April 9 and immediately noticed Partner wasn't there.

This was strange, as they'd locked Partner in the house a few hours earlier.

The footage from the security cameras the family has installed outside their home was as suprising as the missing dog. A woman can be seen attempting to gain entry to the home, eventually receiving help from passersby, and then walking away with a leashed dog.

After the dog's disappearance, Neil and Tabatha posted pictures of Partner on their Facebook pages, asking people if they'd seen him. Northern Life also posted the information on its Facebook page.

With the social media attention that followed, they received dozens of tips from people who said they'd seen the dog being walked in the neighbourhood.

With those tips, the family searched the area in their van and, at around 6 p.m. April 10, they noticed two people on Lorne Street walking a dog that looked a lot like Partner.

They pulled up next to the couple and sure enough, it was Partner, Haskett said.

“He was shaved almost completely bald,” Neil said, except for his head and tail.

Phoning police, the Hasketts confronted the man and woman, who said they'd gotten the dog from city rescue group Pet Save.

Greater Sudbury Police officers brought the dog to the family's vet, Dr. Dan Ransberry of Martindale Animal Clinic, who confirmed the animal was Partner, and the Hasketts were able to bring him home.

“It was a very emotional homecoming,” Neil said.
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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