Future service puppies stolen from Ocala refuge

2 of the 4 puppies sold in Winn-Dixie parking lot, owner says

OCALA, Fla. – Marion County's Sheriff's Office and Starting Over Animal Refuge are still searching for two of the four service puppies that were stolen from the Ocala rescue ranch on Tuesday.

The stolen puppies are being sought by the nonprofit organization, which rescues future service puppies, and the Marion County’s Sheriff’s Office.

The nonprofit owner, Melissa Candow, credits social media for finding two of her puppies.

"All the Facebook people, social media are out there and they're finding my puppies," Candow said.

Two of the four puppies, Itty-Bitty and Thor, have been located after having been sold in a Winn-Dixie parking lot, according to Candow. She believes people who visited her shelter before scoped out the puppies and stole them.

"They're puppy flippers. They stole them and they sold them, or they're trying to sell them," Candow said.

Candow tells News 6 that two puppies have been returned to her. She also believes Mouse, one of the two missing puppies, is being held for ransom.

"I'm going to find them. It'll be my last breath that I find them," she said.

Candow says the puppies are going to be trained to become service dogs.

"They're supposed to be for mobility, seizure alert, PTSD," Candow said. "These dogs are meant to have a future in the service dog industry."

The Marion County Sheriff's Office is investigating. The department says crimes like this aren't very common. A spokesperson adds they haven't heard of "puppy flippers."

"If there are people targeting animal owners, we'll definitely look at that," Lauren Lettelier, with MCSO, said.

For now, Candow anxiously waits, hoping her two missing puppies will be found soon.

"I can't thank the community enough, and keep sharing," she said.

They are offering a reward for each puppy and ask that anyone with information call Starting Over Animal Refuge at 407-280-627,1 or the MCSO at 352-732-8181.

For more information on the stolen puppies, visit https://www.facebook.com/StartingOverRanch.


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