The Voorhees Animal Orphanage’s initial devastation turned to celebration earlier this month, after a 12-week-old puppy was stolen and then found safe within a 24-hour time span.
After being brought to the VAO the previous week after being found in a box in Georgia, Phoenix, a Great Pyrenees mix, was at the shelter to be spayed. After the procedure, the puppy was staying at the shelter to both recover from the surgery, as well as to catch the eyes of shelter visitors in hopes of getting adopted, according to VAO officials.
According to Marketing Director Jennifer Bailey, at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, kennel workers opened up the back gates for the dogs to have more space to move around and use the bathroom. Within minutes, staff noticed Phoenix was gone.
“We found out after the fact from witnesses that this person pulled up their car as far as they could along the side of the building [that is currently under construction],” Bailey said. “They just walked up, helped themselves and took her.”
The VAO has been under construction the last several months as it builds a larger, better-equipped building on its existing plot of land. According to Bailey, construction crews work and park in the area where Phoenix was stolen.
Immediately, Bailey and the VAO launched a social media campaign urging the safe return of the puppy.
“It took off like wildfire,” Bailey said. “The original post had something like over 400,000 views and was shared 50,000 times. It went viral.”
Fortunately, Bailey says the shelter received a phone call from the Berlin Township PetSmart at about 1 p.m. the following afternoon saying someone left a puppy in the store bathroom and they thought the pooch could be Phoenix.
“That was the most painful ride there; it felt like it was forever,” Bailey said. “And we couldn’t really believe it was going to be her until we actually saw her.”
Shortly after Phoenix was located and returned to the VAO, the shelter expressed gratitude to the community for getting the word out about the stolen puppy, but also to the mysterious abductor for the dog’s return.
“We are so grateful that Phoenix’s abductor did the right thing and took her to a place that was safe and warm and she knew she would be found,” the shelter said in a post on its Facebook page.
According to Bailey, the shelter is expected to be under construction for the rest of 2019. The new building will have high-tech security cameras around its perimeter, which are currently not in place due to the construction. However, Bailey says the shelter has purchased temporary cameras that will surround the building in response to the recent abduction. Additionally, locks are expected to be used on the outdoor kennels adjacent to the shelter.
Voorhees Police Department Chief Louis Bordi says the department is continuing to investigate Phoenix’s abduction.
“We are continuing to investigate; we are working with Berlin Township and the PetSmart where [Phoenix] was found,” Bordi said. “We haven’t identified a suspect yet, but if we are lucky enough to identify a suspect, we’ll talk about what the possible charges at that time.”
Bordi said that the Voorhees Police Department is currently reviewing camera footage from the PetSmart location, as well as the Voorhees Fire Department adjacent to the VAO.
According to the shelter, the VAO is not looking to press charges since Phoenix was safely returned; however, Bordi says that the department is still able to charge the suspect, if found.