The Cooper County sheriff told KRCG 13 Friday his office has started investigating a rash of dog disappearances along a southern Cooper County highway.
Sheriff Jerry Wolfe said two people told his office their dogs were missing on Wednesday morning, about a day after KRCG first reported on the dog disappearances. Following the calls and the initial media coverage, he said his office double-checked its files to see if it had overlooked any missing-animal reports. Deputies found a resident along the highway had filed an animal abuse report with his office in October and indicated at the time she was missing another dog, but formal reports about the missing dogs did not start arriving at his office until Wednesday. He said some of his deputies have started talking to people who live in that area to find out what they have seen.
Residents say at least 11 dogs, all of them purebreds, have disappeared from houses along Highway AA in the last six months or fewer. Highway AA is a short connector between highways B and H near the Cooper-Moniteau county line. The dogs' owners have said they are afraid someone may be stealing the dogs and reselling them for profit, a process called pet flipping. Wolfe said there is a possibility some of the dogs may have been killed by wild animals but added if that were the case, the owners probably would have found their pets' remains by now. He called the idea of someone taking the dogs "a pretty high probablility."
"These are not typically the kinds of dogs that would be used in fighting rings, things of that nature," he said. "The thing that we are starting to look at is, what are the outlets for those kinds of animals?"
He said animal thefts of any kind are rare in Cooper County and his office's experience is with livestock thefts. This is the first time he has ever dealt with pets vanishing in rapid succession. He said he is consulting with other law enforcement agencies in the state that have dealt with similar cases in the past.
"We're starting to contact the investigators in some of those counties just to see what kind of contacts, what kind of information we can pick up from them as far as where to look, how to look, things of that nature," he said.
Wolfe said his office will have some trouble putting together a clear picture of what is happening because some of the disappearances are several months old and because so few people live in the area. He said the information-gathering aspect of law enforcement is much harder in rural areas than in towns because neighbors who might otherwise have noticed something suspicious live so far apart. Still, he said his office would treat the case like it does any other investigation.