One of the most joyous moments in many animal lovers’ lives is when a new member is introduced to the family. However, one of the most terrifying things a pet owner can face is having their beloved companion taken from them with no warning. This is exactly what happened to a woman in Livermore when she returned home to find her two German shepherd puppies were missing.
Being clever, she did what any other conscientious and worried person would do, she began looking for the stolen puppies anywhere she could think of. Eventually, she discovered that they were for sale on Craigslist. In an even more daring move, she called the number and set up a meeting to buy her puppies back, posing as an interested buyer. When she confronted 30-year-old (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) about how he acquired the pups, he evidently ran away. She contacted local law enforcement officials and they were able to return both of the dogs to her without further incident. He has been charged with possession of stolen property (CA Penal Code 496) and with extortion (CA Penal Code 518).
In the state of California, possession of stolen property, even a live animal such as a puppy, is a wobbler. Whether or not this crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony depends on the value of the property itself. Felony charges could result in 3 years in state prison; conviction of misdemeanor possession of stolen property could result in 1 year in county jail. He has, however, also been charged with extortion, more commonly known as ‘blackmail.’ In this case, as he was technically forcing the original owner to pay money for the return of her pets (even though he did not know she was the owner), this constitutes extortion according to California law. Penalties for a California extortion conviction are a maximum 4 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.