JEFFERSON-Despite pouring over hours of surveillance camera footage, Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said his office has no credible leads about what happened to a pug that was reported stolen from a Lansing property two weeks ago.
“We’ve worked through all the leads that we have and (ACSO Detective Chris Eldreth) has spent hours reviewing the video of the camera pointed at the property,” Williams said. “The footage isn’t great and there’s no real way to tell what happened to the dog.”
The dog, owned by Lansing’s Daniel Cruz, was reported stolen on April 10.
The alleged dog heist is just the latest twist in a controversy that erupted over the Cruz property in early February after local animal rights activist Lisa Fitzpatrick, who also goes by Lisa Neyland DeLaurentiis Fitzpatrick, published a viral video of animals living on the property.
Many viewers believed the animals, including at least five dogs and multiple roosters, were being abused by the property owner. The video was seen more than 80,000 times in less than 48 hours.
Fitzpatrick was later charged with second degree trespassing. That charge was later dismissed.
She has since launched calls for an outside investigation of the property and for Testerman’s dismissal. Emergency dispatchers and animal control have at also been hit at various times with an avalanche of calls from angry activists demanding action on the situation.
County leaders, including Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick and multiple members of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, have voiced their support for Testerman.
At some point, Williams said Fitzpatrick positioned two video surveillance cameras – with the permission of an adjoining landowner – to film Cruz’s property. One was positioned near the property line while the second was placed farther back up a hill on the same property.
In online postings, Fitzpatrick initially appeared confident the video would prove what really happened to the dog and handed that footage over to Williams’ office.
The farthest camera, however, was the only one in operation during the time frame when the pug may have been taken.
“It’s pointing right at the place where the pug is supposed to be,” Williams said. “But it’s hard to tell much of anything from the footage.”
At one point on the afternoon of April 9, the footage appeared to show a person visiting an animal in the area where the pug would likely be chained, but the footage isn’t clear enough to identify the person or the dog, Williams said.
After sunrise the next morning, the pug appears to be missing and some kind of animal can be seen walking onto the adjoining property, but Williams said the animal on the tape appears to be much larger than the pug.
“It kind of looks like it may have gotten loose wandering around,” Williams said. “There is no way to say for sure, though. At this point we’ve exhausted all our credible leads.”
But Williams said he did not believe that pictures posted by Facebook poster The Pug Queen on April 11, is the missing dog. That person posted pictures of a pug that she claimed had been sent to her anonymously by someone who had stolen the dog from Cruz.
“But both Cruz and Fitzpatrick have seen those photos and both say it’s not the same dog,” Williams said.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.