WEST PARIS — Last month, Kyle Kilgore returned to his West Paris home after a few hours away to find one of his two dogs missing.
Avy, a 2½-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, had been tied up in the front yard of his West Paris home. Her lead appeared to have been severed with bolt cutters.
Avy sometimes got loose and ran to the neighbors' house, but the neighbors hadn't seen her. A week later, a woman in Hartford found Avy's body dumped on her lawn, wrapped in a tarp.
“They put her in a bag, wrapped her in a tarp, zipped the tarp shut and wrapped the cable around her,” Kilgore said. Avy was still wearing her collar.
Eight dogs have been reported missing or stolen this year in Woodstock, Sumner, West Paris and Hartford, Animal Control Officer Ozzie Hart said Thursday. Hart said he believes it's related to a dog-fighting ring.
Most of the missing dogs have been pit bulls, Hart said, although one was a yellow Lab.
Hart said Kilgore's dog appeared to have been shot through the head and had suffered tearing on her ears, but the body was too decomposed to tell how she died.
In addition to the dog thefts, Hart said he had heard reports of dogs barking and gunshots at night off Old County Road in Woodstock. He said those sounds are consistent with dog-fighting activities.
On Thursday, two people in the area called Hart and said they'd seen trucks driving by the power lines and had heard gunshots and dogs at night. The reports have increased lately, and residents are reporting noise as often as three nights a week.
Hart said he believed the stolen dogs were being used as “bait dogs,” non-aggressive dogs used to train fighting dogs. Bait dogs are used to teach aggression in fighting dogs and are often mauled or killed in the process.
Kilgore said he still hadn't told his youngest son that Avy's body was found. Kilgore said when he picks up his 3-year-old son from day care, he wants to go out looking for his dog.
“He tells me, 'We have to go look for Avy,'” Kilgore said. “She was basically one of the kids."
Kilgore said he got her at eight weeks and raised her himself. She was well-socialized and got along well with his children. “If there were any problems, she was right there with them.”
As far as his son knows, Avy ran off. “It really sucks to try to explain something like this to your kid,” Kilgore said.
“It's not anything I would want anyone else to go through, that's for sure,” he said.
Hart said he had heard reports of missing dogs since January, but until finding Avy, he hadn't seen a connection. In January, a man lost his dog when a small, dark-colored truck stopped and a man threw the dog into the truck and took off.
Months later in Canton, a couple left their dog in the car when going into The Big Apple store. When they left the store, the dog was gone. In another case, a dog was missing but the dog's collar was left in the yard.
Robert Larrabee, animal control officer for Oxford Hills towns, including Paris and Oxford, said he hadn't received any reports of stolen dogs in the area. He said the thefts seem to be occurring in West Paris, Woodstock, Sumner and Hartford.
“I'm still shocked," Kilgore said. "I just don't see how someone could do that. I couldn't imagine just riding around and looking for other people's dogs.”
“I hope they catch them before I catch them,” he said.
At this point, dog-fighting is a suspicion, Hart said.
He said anyone who has seen strange activity or knows of people involved in dog-fighting in the area can call him at 357-2818. He said people involved in dog-fighting are armed and could be dangerous.