Dog owners and police are frantically searching for a dogwalker’s van after it was reportedly stolen with at least a dozen dogs inside in downtown Toronto Friday.
Toronto police responded to the Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street around 11:30 a.m. for a report of a stolen van.
Police said a white Ford panel van was stolen with 12 to 15 dogs inside, while dog owners shared information on social media alleging there were as many as 16 dogs inside the vehicle at the time.
Lindsey Woodhouse told Global News her dog was one of the animals stolen when an employee of local company Soulmutts went upstairs to pick up another dog from a residence on Fort York Boulevard.
“I’m devastated, I’m a wreck. All the dog owners are down here — we’re just a complete wreck because we don’t know who this person is. What if they hurt the dogs? Or what if they just let them out on the side of the highway?” she said.
“I mean hopefully they have some shred of humanity in them and they won’t hurt them and they just return them safely. The not knowing is really, really hard.”
Woodhouse said a suspect allegedly jumped in the van while the dog walker had stepped away, but said police had obtained security footage and a licence plate number for the van.
Jake Steinman, a co-owner of Soulmutts Toronto Ltd. Dog Walking, said police had informed him of three other vans stolen in the Fort York area Friday morning.
“At this point we don’t know where the van is. There were 16 dogs in it when it was taken and we’re just hoping that they let them go and don’t let the dogs out and just give up,” he said.
“We’re pleading with the people to just please give up and leave the van and get out of there, and if they do leave it to leave it with the air conditioning on so they don’t get hot.”
Investigators are actively searching for the van, the suspect and the dogs but could not provide details on how the alleged theft occurred.
The suspect is described by police as a white male, standing 6’0″ tall, with a medium build and blond, wavy hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a grey jacket and holding a pink Ardene plastic bag.
Commercial dog walking requires a permit in the city and individuals are typically allowed to walk four to six dogs at a time.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Toronto police at 416-808-1400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
Leslie Whyte contributed to this report