HARTFORD — Missing dog reports are on the rise again in Oxford County, according to a local animal control officer, who believes the dogs may have been taken to use as bait animals in dog-fighting.

About a dozen dogs, mostly golden and Labrador retrievers, have gone missing from the West Paris-Sumner-Hartford area in the past month, Animal Control Officer Ozzie Hart said.

He said most lost dogs are found within a day or two. Only a few per year aren’t found. Last year, that was closer to 50, with mostly pit bull and bulldog breeds disappearing. One dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier from West Paris, was found dead, wrapped in a tarp.

Another missing dog was found in the West Paris apartment of Nicholas P. Libby, who was charged with theft. Police said they believed that theft was an isolated incident.

Suzanne Rowe of Hartford said her 80-pound black Lab, Brady, has been missing for a week from her home on Route 140. Brady never leaves the yard, Rowe said, but last Thursday he disappeared from the yard while playing with her son and hasn’t been seen since.

Rowe said Brady is neutered, has a white stripe on his chest and should be wearing a chain collar. She said she’s heard of loose black Lab sightings in Bryant Pond, Carthage and Greene, but by the time they drive out there, there’s no dog to be found.

Rowe hopes Hart’s dog-fighting theory is wrong and that Brady just decided to run off into the woods for the first time. “We have to believe he’s just missing or lost in the woods,” she said.

The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office said last year it found no evidence of dog-fighting in Oxford County.

The missing dogs seem to be limited to Hartford, West Paris and Sumner. Wendell Strout, animal control officer for Lewiston-Auburn and most of Androscoggin County, said he hadn’t seen any increase in disappearances. Responsible Pet Care in Norway said it has six open missing-dog reports.

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