LATEST NUMBERS ON PET THEFT
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:
IRONTON, Ohio––Earl Hall Jr.,
66, of Delbarton, West Virginia, was to be
arraigned on February 17 in Ironton Municipal
Court on 25 counts of cruelty––one for each of
25 dogs police found crammed into three
small cages in the back of his pickup truck.
Hall said he was taking the dogs for sale to a
reasearch laboratory. As ANIMAL PEOPLE
went to press, police were still trying to determine
whether any of the dogs were stolen.
There were reports that two men in separate
trucks were stealing dogs in the area by posing
as local dog wardens.
Hall was arrested just as the fourth
biennial update of the ANIMAL PEOPLE pet
theft log confirmed previous findings that the
1990 Pet Theft Act amendments to the Animal
Welfare Act appear to have virtually halted
thefts for laboratory use since taking effect in
January 1992. If any of the dogs in Hall’s
possession are identified as stolen, he will
become the first person apprehended in
alleged connection with pet theft for laboratory
use since 1993.
The Pet Theft Act amendments
require sellers of animals to federally funded
institutions to record the source and disposal
of all animals they receive. Since 1992, the
USDA has prosecuted at least 25 Class B animal
dealers a year for poor record-keeping––
often associated with traffic in stolen animals.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE u p d a t e s
cover four distinct epochs: the decade prior to
the introduction of the failed 1988 Pet
Protection Act, coinciding with the rise of the
animal rights movement, which made pet
theft a central issue; the period between 1988
and the coming into effect of the Pet Theft
Act, when pet theft had a high public profile;
the first two years of USDA Pet Theft Act
enforcement; and the four years since.
The “Perps” column below lists the
number of alleged pet thieves who were individually
indentified by law enforcement.
“Conv” lists those known to have been convicted.
The outcome of many cases, especially
involving juveniles, is not known to us. No
alleged thieves were prosecuted before 1988.
Of the 18 convictions in 1988-1991, 14
involved individuals who were prosecuted by
the USDA; some were also prosecuted by
other agencies. Among the 68 alleged perpetrators
identified in 1994-1997, only 53 were
actually charged with a crime. Many 1994-
1997 cases are still before the courts.
Of the 334 thefts for laboratory use
during 1988-1991, 330 were committed by
just eight professional suppliers. Of the 106
thefts for sadistic abuse during the same years,
77 were cats stolen by just one perpetrator,
Mitchell Munoz of Atlanta, who was convicted
in 1990 and sentenced to serve eight years
in prison. All nine of the prolific alleged
thieves took animals chiefly through fraudulent
adoption of “free to good home” pets.
Of the 81 thefts for sadistic abuse
recorded in 1992-1993, 45 were allegedly
stolen by a single dogfighting ring whose
identities were never disclosed by police.
Of the 50 thefts by would-be rescuers
in 1992-1993, 47 involved dogs seized
from former Class B dealer Ervin Stebane, of
Wisconsin, and boarded at various shelters
while Stebane––long suspected of selling
stolen animals––was investigated for alleged
cruelty in a “sting” case set up by Last Chance
for Animals. The dogs were taken after
Stebane was acquitted and won a court order
for their return. Stebane was later permanently
put out of business by the USDA, primarily
for alleged record-keeping offenses.
Fifty animals believed to have been
stolen for sadistic motives since 1994 were
allegedly stolen for sexual abuse by Sandra L.
Archer and Mark W. Williams of Omaha.
Authorities testified in Archer’s case that the
animals were obtained through both “free to
good home” ads and shelter adoption. Archer
in mid-1997 drew two years in jail and a fine
of $2,000. Williams, at last word we
received, had not yet gone to trial.
Two evident trends are that increasingly
vigorous cruelty prosecutions seem be
netting more people who steal pets for sadistic
abuse, and that thefts of pets for pecuniary
reasons other than resale to labs are climbing.
Fifteen purebred dogs and cats are
known to have been stolen for resale during
the past two years in cases where the alleged
perpetrators have been identified; nine dogs
have been stolen accidentally by car thieves;
and six times as many pet thefts in connection
with extortion attempts have come to light in
the past four years as were identified in the
previous 15 years. The rising numbers of
cases of these sorts coincide with explosions
in thefts of exotic birds (see “Speculative
prices send parrot theft soaring,” A N I M A L
PEOPLE, October 1997), and of reptiles.
As theft for resale to labs has
declined, some perpetrator who steal pets for
money may have turned toward other markets.
Years Perps Conv Animals Dogs Cats Labs Sadism Rescue Ransom Other
1978/1987 8 0 50 49 1 45 2 1 2 0
1988/1991 40 18 452 300 152 334 106 7 2 3
1992/1993 33 11 220 193 27 77 81 50 2 10