The president of the Van Zandt County Humane Society has been arrested for stealing dogs.
Cynthia Diane Durham, 61, was arrested Wednesday by Van Zandt County Precinct 2 Constable Jesse Ison and charged with theft of property. She is in the Van Zandt County Jail on a bond of $250,000.
She is accused of participating in a process known as “pet flipping,” or stealing pets to be transported elsewhere for resale as a “rescue.”
According to a press release from Ison, the victim, Jeremy Housden, contacted his office on July 15 to report the theft of the family’s two blue heeler hounds while the family was out of town.
During the investigation, Ison said, Sergeant Deputy Jason Burns received information connecting Durham to the crime scene and the alleged theft.
Burns interviewed Durham, whom Ison said confessed to the theft. Ison said Durham told investigators she believed the dogs were neglected.
Ison said that was disproved during the investigation.
Ison said Durham then told Burns that she had transferred the dogs to a rescue group in Wisconsin where they were being prepared for adoption.
Burns located a photo of the stolen dogs listed for adoption on the “Unchained K-9 Rescue & Rehab” website in Wisconsin. Burns showed Housden the photo and he positively identified the dogs as his stolen family pets.
Burns contacted the rescue group and spoke to the owner, Patricia Junk, and notified her that she was in possession of stolen property. Junk refused to release the dogs to a law enforcement agency and refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Burns also discovered that the suspects posted a photo of the stolen dogs on the rescue group’s website stating “Available soon,” according to Ison.
Burns said the photo was posted on the website four days before the dogs were actually stolen from their home.
After several failed attempts to recover the stolen pets, Ison stated that the Van Zandt County Constable’s Office had obtained arrest warrants for both Durham and Junk for committing the offense of theft of property.
“The Constable’s Office is still hopeful that the dogs can be located so they can be returned to their family,” Ison said.
“Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family,” Ison said. “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.”
The SPCA of Texas investigates animal cruelty in Van Zandt County. If you believe that an animal is being neglected, contact the SPCA of Texas directly at 214-742-7722 or file a report online at www.spca.org. In the case of an emergency, contact Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office at (903)567-4133.
Ison also recommended that pet owners have their furry family members microchipped.
“If your pets get lost or stolen, the microchip with identify the owner so that they can be returned home safely,” he said.
Ison said the SPCA of Texas has been hosting low cost wellness clinics periodically in Canton. They will be returning September 21 in front of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office at 235 E. Groves Street. The SPCA of Texas will be offering a low-cost wellness clinic including microchips for only $5 to protect your pets.
Durham was booked into the Van Zandt County for a warrant for Theft of Property >$750<$2500 where she is awaiting arraignment on a recommended bond of $250,000.
53-year old Patricia Ann Junk of Merrillan Wisconsin is currently wanted at large for alleged Theft of Property >$750<$2500. The Jackson County Sheriff’s office in Wisconsin is currently searching for Junk and once arrested, she will be extradited back to Texas.