Prize-winning show dog found Stolen in Secaucus, recovered in Newark

It’s cats that are supposed to have nine lives – not dogs.

So Pounder, the 14-month-old English mastiff who was stolen from a car in a Secaucus parking lot last Saturday morning, is probably thankful that she had the luck of the feline.

Three days after the 170-pound show dog was taken from a parked car outside the Homestead Suites on Meadowlands Parkway, she was spotted wandering the streets of Newark. A Good Samaritan picked her up, notified co-owner Sharon Costello, and within hours, Pounder was back in her Stewartsville, N.J., home.

“You don’t know how thankful I am,” Costello said when reached by phone moments after she learned that Pounder was alive and well. “I just can’t tell you how happy I am right now.” It had been an emotional 72 hours for Costello and her family, as well as Shelby Johnsen, Pounder’s breeder and trainer.

Johnsen and Pounder were in Secaucus to participate in the Monticello New York Kennel Club show, held last weekend at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.

“I had just taken her for a walk. I then put her in her crate in the back of my car,” Johnsen said in an interview before Pounder was recovered. “I had to use the restroom myself, so I went back inside the hotel. I left her alone for probably 10 minutes.”

Frequent targets

“Unfortunately, this happens more often than you’d think,” said John Penatello, president and chairman of the Monticello New York Kennel Club, referring to the number of dognappings reported at animal shows nationally each year. “Last year there was an incident at a dog show in Ohio. The dog owner left her dogs alone in her car. The car was stolen with the dogs in the back. They found the car several days later. It had been torched with the dogs still inside.”

“It’s sad,” Penatello said. “But you have to practice common sense. You have to think about the world we live in today.”

To help prevent similar incidents in the future, Penatello said he will put a special notice in his programs and other printed materials recommending that owners not leave their animals unattended, even for brief periods.

Johnsen, Costello, and Penatello would not speculate on whether Pounder was specifically targeted, nor on what the motive may have been.

A GPS unit was also stolen from the vehicle. The system, which can fetch a lot of money on the black market, may have been what initially attracted the thieves.

“Who knows,” Penatello said. “In these cases, sometimes it’s the dog. Sometimes it’s the vehicle or something that’s left inside the vehicle.”

Johnsen said her car, a Chevy Suburban, has tinted windows and Pounder could not have been seen from outside the vehicle.

Although Penatello does not know who the crook may have been, he was certain the thief was not part of the dog show community.

“If you are in any way connected to the theft of a show dog, you are banned by the Society of American Kennel Clubs,” he said. “You are forever prevented from breeding or showing.”

Cops mum about investigation

Det. Captain John Buckley of the Secaucus Police Department said the investigation into the Pounder theft is ongoing.

He refused to comment on whether investigators have any leads on a suspect.

“I want whoever did this found and punished, certainly,” Costello said. “Right now, though, I’m just so glad she’s back.”

“She needs to be back home with her family,” Johnsen said, before Pounder, who has won four ribbons in dog shows, was located. “She’s a pet and a member of someone’s family before she’s a show dog.”


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