All dogs are accounted for and in good health, said Const. Craig Brister of the Toronto Police Service. The van was found in a parking lot at 200 Queens Quay E.
The animals were in a van owned by Soulmutts, a local dog daycare company. The dog walker had left it briefly outside a condo building at 215 Fort York Blvd. at around 11 a.m. to run upstairs and pick up a dog; during that time a man broke into the vehicle, climbed in and took off.
“He was in there for a minute, minute and a half, and when he came back the van was gone,” said Soulmutts co-owner Alison Fodero. “It happened in a flash.”
Dogs reunited with owners after missing van found
oe Farrugia, a railway worker who’s employed nearby, said he saw the van and heard dogs barking on his way in to the office, but didn’t initially think anything of it. Then, a co-worker told him about the theft as they chatted before starting their shifts.
“We came over and had a look, and the next thing you know, the dogs are in there,” Farrugia said.
And so it was a happy scene on Queens Quay as owners came to pick up their beloved pets, with an abundance of wagging tails and smiling humans crowding the area around the van.
Amy Morse, who owns a six-year-old rescue dog named Lily, said she was relieved that the “long, terrifying day” was over.
“She does smell really bad, but I would take that over never smelling her again,” Morse said.
Lindsey Peacock said she was overjoyed to have her 18-month-old husky, Charlie, back in her arms.
“You better believe we’re going to spoil him rotten, even more so than we do already,” she said.
The other owner of Soulmutt, Jake Steinman, said he was grateful that whoever stole the van appeared to have listened to pleas to leave it running, ensuring that its climate-control functions would keep the animals warm.
“At the end of the day, we’re angry at this person, but the most important thing is that the dogs are safe right now,” Steinman said.
Earlier in the day, owners had been frantic as the people across Toronto joined the search for the missing dogs.
Camilla De Cesare said she was “hysterical” when she found out her two dogs, Lupo and Panda, were among the 16 missing dogs.
I just really want them to be OK,” she said, breaking into tears. “I mean my one dog, he’s such a princess. He can’t survive anything. My other dog is a tank, like he can survive for a couple days.”
Adam Woodhouse’s dog Charlie, a husky mix, was among the 16 dogs that were in the stolen van.
Dog parents were gathered at the condo Friday to comfort each other as they waited for their dogs to be found.
“We’re all pretty panicked and shocked so we came down to try and help out,” said Adam Woodhouse, Charlie’s co-owner.
“I am devastated, just devastated,” Sheila O’Toole. She was returning from her lunch break Friday when she received the news that Agnes, her 8-year-old Jatzu (half Japanese Chin, half Shih Tzu), was one of the pets taken.
Camilla De Cesare has two dogs that were in the stolen van, a maltese yorkie mix named Lupo and a rescue mix named Panda
“I had to read the email five times. I broke down,” she said. “She’s a family member. She’s my soulmate.
Among the dogs taken in the van was Simba the Shiba Inu, popular on Instagram with more than 17,500 followers. His owner Stas Dimos, who had just signed his dog up for the service two weeks ago, drove around the area all afternoon hoping to find his companion.
“I just want him back,” he said.
On Friday night Brister said there was no new information on the suspect who stole the van; he was earlier described the suspect as a blond male, white, six feet tall and around 200 pounds, carrying a pink bag. Fodero said she was told that police don’t believe that the van was targeted.
In the end, many dog owners were simply overjoyed that they could go to bed with their beloved pets back at home. Emily Johnston, whose pug, Charlotte, was among the missing pups, said she was grateful to everyone who helped with the search.
“This is a testament to how great the human spirit is,” said Johnston, bursting into tears. “It just warms my heart hearing that so many people care that don’t know each other.”
Meanwhile, Fodero said Soulmutt plans to place iPads in their vehicles starting Monday, so that staff can use Find my iPhone to track them, should a similar situation ever arise again.
Soulmutt’s vans, the owners say, have two keys — one for the driver to keep at all times and another to leave in the ignition, so the climate-control systems are running at all times. Though the vehicles are always locked, Fodero said Soulmutt and other similar companies are now rethinking their security measures.
“Something like this happens and it really makes you think,” she said.
“We really, really just want our dogs to be safe. That’s happened now, so we can exhale. I really hope they find who did this, because this was a really terrible thing.”