Was Peanut dognapped?!
San Diego police confirmed an investigation has been opened in this suspicious case, where the people who returned the 7-month-old Chihuahua may have been the thieves who took the beloved pet in the first place.
Peanut’s family (who withheld their surname when speaking with NBC 7‘s Steven Luke) hails from Laguna Beach, and was visiting San Diego’s Belmont Park amusement park when dad, Peter, set Peanut’s carrier down in order to pay for ride tickets. A moment later, the carrier – with Peanut inside – had disappeared.
Surveillance footage later revealed a couple stealing off with the carrier, concealing it beneath a piece of clothing.
“These people were professionals,” he told the station. “They were unbelievably quick. Unbelievably efficient. If you looked at the way they covered up the bag (and) walked together – the way they got through the crowd….”
The search for Peanut began in earnest shortly thereafter; the family even hired a marketing specialist to help disseminate the information, which culminated in a social-media campaign and a $5,000 reward for the pup’s return.
About a week passed. The few leads accumulated led nowhere. And then an odd phone call seemed promising – but suspicious.
“[That] they didn’t steal her was the first thing out of their mouths,” says Catharine, Peter’s wife. They provided neither address nor a time to retrieve Peanut. “They wouldn’t tell us where to go until literally 10 minutes before we went.”
Catharine said she asked the detective assigned to her case if officers could come along on the exchange, but they declined. Instead, friends accompanied her to the rendezvous point: a Walmart parking lot in Escondido, where a woman – accompanied by several other cars and an associate who was taking video of the transaction.
“It felt like a business enterprise to me….” Catharine told reporters, “Peanut’s owners handed over only a portion of the $5,000. The strangers didn’t balk, taking what they were offered. The investigation is still active.
“The whole thing felt like a ransom,” Catharine said. “Our dog was held hostage.”