VAN ZANDT COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - On Wednesday, the Van Zandt County Pct. 2 Constable’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office joined forces to arrest the president of the county’s Humane Society in connection with allegations that she stole two blue heeler dogs from a man back in July.
Another suspect in the case is still at large.
Cynthia Durham, 61, of Van, was booked into the Van Zandt County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor theft of property between $750 and $2,500 charge. According to a press release, she is currently awaiting arraignment on a recommended bond amount of $250,000.
According to the press release, Pct. 2 Constable Jesse Ison said that the victim contacted him about an alleged theft that occurred on July 15. The Jeremy Housden, the victim, said that he was out of town on July 12, and a family friend was taking care of his family’s pets, which included two blue heeler dogs.
“The individual let the dogs outside, and when it came time to let them back in, they were missing,” the press release stated. “Ison stated that during the investigation, his Sergeant Deputy Jason Burns received information connecting Durham to the crime scene and the alleged theft.’
Later, Burns interviewed Durham, who confessed to stealing the dogs, the press release stated. She also said that she believed the dogs were being neglected. The press release indicated that the investigation disproved Durham’s neglect claim.
During the course, of the investigation, Burns also learned that Durham is the president of the Van Zandt County Humane Society.
“Durham told Burns that she had transferred to a rescue group in Wisconsin, where they were being prepared for adoption,” the press release stated.
According to the press release, Burns found a photo of the stolen dogs listed for adoption on the “Unchained K-9 Rescue & Rehab” website based in Wisconsin. When the deputy constable showed Housden the photo of the dogs, he positively identified them as his stolen family pets, the press release stated.
When Burns contacted Patricia A Finch-Junk, the rescue group’s owner, and told her that she was in possession of stolen property, she allegedly refused to release the dogs to a law enforcement agency and refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Burns also found that the suspects posted a picture of the stolen dogs on the rescue group’s website along with text that said, “Available soon.”
“Burns stated that the photo was posted on the website four days before the dogs were actually stolen from their home,” the press release stated.
After several failed attempts to recover the stolen dogs, the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office obtained arrest warrants for both Durham and Finch-Junk, 52, of Merrillam, for theft of property.
According to WXOW, a TV station in Wisconsin, deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Finch-Junk Friday morning. She agreed to cooperate and allowed the two dogs to be recovered.
Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera told WXOW that the dogs will remain in a safe place until authorities from Texas cam come to Wisconsin and recover them.
Finch-Junk was later released from custody. No charges are pending against her in Wisconsin. Waldera told WXOW that any criminal charges would have to come from Texas.
The press release stated that the constable’s office is still hopeful that the dogs can be located, so they can be returned to their family.
“Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family,” Ison said in the press release. “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.”
In the press release, Ison stressed the importance of having pets microchipped.
“If your pets get lost or stolen, the microchip with identify the owner so that they can be returned home safely,” Ison said.
The constable stated that the SPCA of Canton has been hosting low-cost wellness clinics. He said they will be returning on Sept. 21. They will be in front of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office located at 235 E. Groves Street in Canton, and the low-cost wellness clinic will include microchips for the fee of $5.