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Hollywood Actress’ Deaf Dog Safely Returned After Being Kidnapped and Held for Ransom

Have you ever lost track of your pet’s location? It’s always a scary situation to suddenly realize your canine or feline companion could be or is missing outside of the safe confines of your home environment.

Even worse is the circumstance that somebody would steal your pet and dangle the prospect of your reunion in front of you provided a suitable ransom payment is made. This recently happened in my hometown of Los Angeles, but fortunately it ended on a happy note with the purloined pooch being safely returned.

Hollywood actress Tricia O’Kelley, known for her work on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The New Adventures of Old Christine had her 11-year old Yorkshire Terrier, Walter, abducted from her fenced in backyard.

Walter’s friendly disposition and deafness may have contributed to the apparent ease of his dog-napping, as "he (Walter) is very trusting, and would go with anyone". His lack of hearing may have made Walter less aware of the perpetrators approach.  Besides being deaf, Walter has a respiratory condition common to small breed dogs called hypoplastic trachea (tracheal collapse). This condition, along with Walter’s age and deafness, made O’Kelley very concerned about Walter’s health during the time he went missing.

According to an NBC News report, the dog-nappers got O’Kelley’s cell phone number from Walter’s dog tag, called her, and demanded a $1,000 ransom. Obviously distraught, O’Kelley handed off the negotiations to her husband, Adam Rosenblatt. The perpetrators had quite the scheme going, O’Kelley and Rosenblatt were instructed to post fliers announcing Walter’s disappearance around their neighborhood. They would then bring one of the fliers to a Chevron gas station in their Los Feliz neighborhood along with the $1,000 ransom in exchange for Walter’s return.

Little did the dog-nappers know, but Rosenblatt already had the police involved. While clarifying the details of their elaborate plan, the thieves were on speakerphone and the authorities were in on the conversation.

The police suggested that Rosenblatt go to the planned meeting site accompanied by a plain-clothed officer. While hanging up the flyers, Rosenblatt received another call from the dog-nappers indicating their awareness of police presence at the planned meeting spot. The police where there for another reason, but the dog-napper suspected Walter’s owners were lying. O’Kelley reports that  the dog-nappers called the plan off and stated, “Don’t lie to me. I’m keeping your dog”.

That phone call was reportedly placed at a 7-Eleven in North Hollywood (a few neighborhoods away from the planned meeting site) and was the last communication that O’Kelly and Rosenblatt received from the Walter’s abductors.

Three days later, a good Samaritan witnessed Walter being dropped off within the vicinity of his owners’ home by a white car with tinted windows (suspected to be the dog-nappers). The good Samaritan found O'Kelley’s phone number on Walter’s tag, placed the call, and dog and owner were soon reunited.

This harrowing story reinforces the need for responsible pet ownership practices. The happy ending was facilitated by the fact that O’Kelley had appropriately fashioned Walter with a collar bearing a tag and her mobile phone number.  As a result, she was able to be contacted by both the dog-nappers and the good Samaritan.

Additionally, Walter is reported to have been implanted with a microchip. The microchip does not directly connect a lost pet to its owner, but it certainly helps in the reuniting process. Once the microchip is scanned at a veterinary hospital or animal shelter, the individual doing the scanning can then contact the microchip’s manufacturer. From there, provided the owner’s contact information has been kept up-to-date, the owner can be reached and reunited with the lost pet.

Besides having a tag and microchip, I suggest having a canine or feline companion wear a collar embroidered with the phone number at which its owner can most easily be reached. As tags can fall off or be removed and microchips require scanning, the embroidered collar adds an extra layer of protection.

I’m so pleased to hear that Walter was unharmed and reunited with his owners.  Hopefully, he’ll have many safe and healthy years in the O’Kelley-Rosenblatt household.

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Photo via Tricia O'Kelley's twitter page

Has your own pet ever gone missing or been abducted?  Feel free to share your story by leaving your comments.



Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Patrick Mahaney takes a close look at celebrities, their pets, and other hot-button pet parenting topics from a veterinary perspective. His path to becoming a veterinarian was not the pursuit of a childhood dream, but was rather a serendipitous migration from his original plan, which was to pursue a career in marine biology or fine arts. To satisfy his creative urges, Dr. Mahaney writes a pet health column, guest blogs for Perez Hilton's, and created (CPN), which puts a veterinary spin on issues pertaining to celebrities, their pets, and public health.

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