A meeting of concerned pet-owners took place at a cafe in downtown Fort St. John to discuss a new method of reigning in what they call "an epidemic" of pet stealing.
The crowd consisted of about 25 people, many of whom were missing pets — mostly dogs — or knew of others whose pets were missing.
The group doesn’t believe their dogs ran away, were consumed by wild animals or were hit by vehicles. They’re convinced there has been a rash of pet thefts in the area, and they’re determined to stop it.
Leading the meeting was Brad Tanner, who lives near Cecil Lake.
He relayed the story of his dog Choco’s abduction, and subsequent attempts to find his pet. It was eventually found by a farmer, shot at point blank range and buried in a snow bank eight miles from his home.
Others in the room told similar stories, though few ended with closure for the owners, with many dogs still missing.
In early March, Fort St. John RCMP said they had three reports of stolen dogs, including Tanner's pet. However, many believe the number of dogs stolen in the region is much higher.
Tanner said he doesn’t know why these pets are being taken, and he doesn’t care — his goal is to end it.
He floated the concept of the “Sea of Green Community,” and requested input and ideas from the attendees.
Tanner’s Sea of Green Community would be a network of pet owners and concerned community members.
Pets would be identified with a green tag, and stickers and signs would be put up in driveways and car windows to identify members, warning potential dog thieves away by indicating that this is a “pet safe community.”
In attendance was Anna MacNeil, who started the Facebook group Stolen Dogs 911, which has become particularly popular in the Peace Country since she started it not long ago.
MacNeil said of the over 3,000 “likes” the group has, about 1,000 are from the Fort St. John area, 500 from Grande Prairie, and 250 from Dawson Creek.
She’s also with Urban Animal, a Canadian foundation that gathers sponsorship from the pet industry — places like dog food and insurance companies — and puts that money towards small, innovative projects, like Tanner’s.
She thinks Tanner has a shot at taking his idea across the country.
“If they choose him, there will be money from the sponsors to back him to next year, to come to the summit, a big, huge conference in October, with all of the leaders of the pet industries [present],” said MacNeil.
She likes his chances.
“I can’t see it going any other way,” she said. “I’ve seen a few years’ worth of candidates and Brad’s idea is so easily implemented with not a lot of money.”
From the summit, if chosen, he will be sponsored to take the Sea of Green across Canada.
“Within a three year period he could have this across Canada,” she said.
What makes Tanner’s idea so special? It connects the PetLynx, a company that MacNeil works for that has a database of around 1 million pets registered to it, with the community side, the Sea of Green.
“[PetLynx] helps about 2,000 pets get home every month in Canada, it’s already in place,” she said.
“But his vision, how do you stop people from stealing your pets, that’s where he’s changed it into if that dog has a green tag, thieves are going to learn to not touch your dog.
"The idea is to repel thieves, not get the dogs back after they’ve been stolen, because that’s hard.”