BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WXOW) – A woman from Merrillan is taken into custody for a time Friday morning after an investigation into the theft of two dogs in Texas leads to Jackson County, Wisconsin.
Sheriff Duane Waldera said that Patricia A. Finch-Junk was taken into custody then released after she agreed to cooperate with authorities in recovering the two blue heeler dogs taken from Van Zandt County last month.
The sheriff said the dogs were recovered and in a safe place until Texas authorities can come up and retrieve them.
According to the Van Zandt County District Attorney’s Office, the Van Zandt County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office began an investigation on July 15 when the victim, Jeremy Housden, said his dogs were taken when he was out of town and they were under the care of a family friend. The friend let the dogs out, and when the time came for them to come in, they were gone.
During the investigation, Sergeant Deputy Jason Burns found evidence that led to the president of the Van Zandt County Humane Society Cynthia Durham. When interviewed, she admitted to taking the dogs because she believed they were neglected. This was disproved during the investigation according to the District Attorney’s Office.
She was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of Theft of Property.
Durham told Burns that she sent the dogs to a rescue organization called “Unchained K-9 Rescue & Rehab” in Merrillan, Wisconsin.
The DA’s statement said that when Burns found a picture of the stolen dogs on the rescue’s website, which is no longer online, the owner positively identified them as his stolen family pets. The group’s Facebook page is also offline.
When Burns reached out to the owner of the rescue group, Patricia Finch-Junk, and told her she was in possession of stolen property, the statement said she refused to release the dogs and to cooperate with the investigation.
The statement also said that pictures of the dogs were posted on the rescue group’s website, under the caption “Available Soon”, four days before the dogs were actually stolen from their home.
The statement said that after several failed attempts to recover the dogs, arrest warrants were issued for Durham and Finch-Junk.
KLTV-TV said that Durham, 61, of Van, Texas, was booked into the Van Zandt County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor theft of property between $750 and $2,500 charge Wednesday. Online court records said she posted a $1,500 bond following a court appearance on Friday.
Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera said that any charges against Finch-Junk would come from Texas. If she failed to turn herself in to face those charges, another arrest warrant would be issued.
The Van Zandt County District Attorney’s Office said that Finch-Junk faces the same charge as Durham. The statement said she would be extradited back to Texas to face that charge.
Van Zandt County Precinct 2 Constable Jesse Ison commented: “Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. Stealing someone’s family pet is absolutely unacceptable. We will not tolerate animal theft or any other crimes being committed against our citizens in this county.”
(KLTV in Tyler, Texas contributed to this report)
RELEASE FROM THE VAN ZANDT COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE: