Calgary

Woman searching for lost chihuahua warns of 'very, very cruel' lost dog scammers

Katy Speerstra hasn't seen her pet, Hamilton, since he chased after a rabbit on Halloween night. But she has heard from a handful of people who've tried to cash in on her pain.

Katy Speerstra hasn't seen her pet since he chased after a rabbit on Halloween

Hamilton has been missing since he ran after a rabbit in southeast Calgary on Oct. 31. (Katy Speerstra)

Katy Speerstra spends her spare time now going door to door, trying to find her lost dog.

Hamilton, a two-year-old chihuahua-poodle mix, raced out of her front door in southeast Calgary on Halloween night, chasing after a rabbit. She hasn't seen her beloved pet since.

But she has heard from a handful of suspected scammers looking to cash in on her pain.

"It's very, very cruel. You're so distraught because you want your loved one back," Speerstra said. "And then it's just really disappointing that that's where society's kind of headed, where some people think it's OK to ... take advantage of people when they're suffering."

After her dog went missing, she posted online and distributed flyers, hoping someone had found him. She had no responses — until she changed the ad to offer a reward.

Then her phone started ringing with numbers either blocked, private or randomly generated to be anonymous.

"The story line was fairly similar. They would say that they had Hamilton," she said. "The first time that I received that call that they had Hamilton, I was just so excited, I sat down. I was shaking. I thought the whole worry was over."

Instead, one caller insisted she pay the reward first in cash. Another later texted her to say they had bought Hamilton for $450 and wanted the purchase price plus a reward, or they wouldn't return her dog. In total, she had five anonymous tips, though she can't confirm they were all from different people.

Hamilton hasn't been seen for a couple weeks. (Katy Speerstra)

Members of the YYC Pet Recovery Facebook group agreed with her that the first request sounded suspicious. Speerstra also contacted the Calgary Police Service and was told it sounded fishy. She was encouraged not to send any money or meet anyone except in a public place, like at a police station.

The police couldn't say if they've had other similar reports but said they have fraud and extortion investigators who can take complaints. However, resources are primarily allocated to situations where money has been lost.

Speerstra hopes telling her story publicly will help prevent other cases in the future, especially considering they're hard to investigate as scammers often use blocked or fake numbers. She said she's also worried someone who does find a lost dog might resort to similar extortion tactics.

"It's your furbaby, so of course you're in a panic to get it back but you're at the mercy of these people and the amounts they're going to set," she said.

Oliver, the dog on the left, is missing his younger brother, Katy Speerstra says. (Katy Speerstra )

In the meantime, she continues to look for Hamilton, who still hasn't come home.

If anyone wants to keep an eye out for Hamilton, he is a brown and red chihuahua-poodle mix and was last seen on Bow Bottom Trail running toward Canyon Meadows Drive. Speerstra can be reached at 403-399-5283.

With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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