LIVINGSTON PARISH, La (WVLA) -- When Shana Lowell rescued Midnight, and her nine puppies, from a run-down trailer, she thought they'd be safer living with her, but three weeks ago, they went missing. Lowell says she had some errands to run, and was gone for about three hours. When she left her home, Midnight and her puppies were safely fenced into her backyard. That was the last time she saw them.
"Somebody took that mama and her nine puppies from this trailer park," says Lowell. "There's no explanation." At five weeks, she says it's hard to believe that nine puppies could get very far on their own.She says a neighbor told her he saw someone looking at the puppies while she was gone, but no one saw them being picked up. Lowell searched for days, but the dogs didn't turn up.
Lowell found a small cut in her fence, confirming her worst fears. "I took time trying to save them and some heartless person comes by and takes them for no reason."
For her, the uncertainty of the situation is most frustrating. "I guess what really bothers me is I don't know where they are. I don't know if they're suffering. I don't know if they're starving, if someone's abusing them."
In Holden, there's a similar story. The Howze family thinks their pets, a Great Dane named Sam and a Terrier mix named Tootsie, were taken from their front yard in the middle of Thanksgiving night. Jennifer Howze says her father, Dennis, heard Sam barking around 1am, so much that he almost got up to check on him, but then the barking stopped. In the morning, both Sam and Tootsie were missing.
"It's really disheartening to know there are people out there who could just go into somebody's yard and take a pet that's like their family," Jennifer says.
For the Howze family, this isn't the first time this has happened. About five years ago, a neighbor saw Sam being put in a white van. He turned up down the road a few miles. The Howze family never thought it would happen again. "It's just unreal."
Howze says she's heard rumors that dogs have been stolen all over the area in the past year to be sold at a large flea market in Ripley, Miss. "The dogs usually go missing about a week before the flea market opens each month."
But today, the family got a call. Sam was found dead on the side of the road, a gunshot wound in his head. "It's horrible not knowing what the outcome is. Were they tortured or were they taken in as pets? And then, now to find out that he's been shot. We know it's not the best possible outcome."
Sam had been with the Howze family for eight years. Howze says she can't understand why anyone would harm him. "If they meant to resell him, that may be the reason why they killed him," she says. "When they realized he wasn't going to be worth as much as they had anticipated."
Tootsie, the younger of the two dogs, was nowhere to be found. "We're still looking for Tootsie. We don't know if she's alive or not."
They're holding out hope that she's still in the area. "We're hoping to find her this week before the flea market"
Both pet owners say they've learned from the experience. Lowell has upped security in her yard to make sure none of her pets are taken again. "There will be a camera outside. I have an electric fence."
The Howze family says this is a loss they hope no other pet owners will ever have to feel. "It can happen," says Howze. "Don't take your pets for granted and think they're safe because they're in the front yard."
The Howze family has contacted the flea market in Mississippi. Their contact is on the lookout for Tootsie. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating Sam's death. A deputy tells me they will retrieve the bullet, so they can try to link it to a weapon.
The family is offering a $500 dollar award to anyone who has information that will lead to an arrest. You can reach Dennis Howze at (225) 686-2721.
If you have any information regarding Sam's death or the disappearance of the dogs, call Crime Stoppers at 1-877-903-STOP.
If you have any information about Midnight and her puppies, please call Shana Lowell at (225) 247-1959 or email her at: email@example.com