"Dog trainer" wanted for selling clients' dogs

April 19, 2010 5:16:21 PM PDT
Wilmington police say a man who claims to be a dog trainer was swindling unsuspecting pet owners by stealing their dogs and selling them for profit.

"We can't have babies so these are our babies," John Johnson told Action News. Among his brood, a pit bull terrier named Blue.

"We were looking for a dog trainer," Johnson said. "We were looking on the internet and searched on Google - and "A Bad Dog No More" came up."

Johnson says the owner, James Whitten, offered to train and board both dogs for $500.

Johnson drove from Baltimore to drop the dogs off at Whitten's home on the 200 Block of Stroud Street in Wilmington. But then Johnson got concerned when he called Whitten repeatedly and got no answer.

Johnson told Action News that four days after dropping off his pooches, he drove back to Wilmington and discovered Whitten and the dogs were gone. That's when Officer Nicholas Pepe of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals got involved.

"He said, 'I'll find your dogs for you.' Twenty minutes later - he called me and said, 'I got your dogs,'" Johnson told Action News. "If it wasn't for Officer Pepe - we wouldn't have our dogs today."

Officer Pepe found the dogs at another Wilmington home on the 500 block of North Scott Street. He knew of the home because he found six dogs inside the building in December. While Whitten told him he was running a dog training operation, Whitten could not provide a business license.

When Officer Pepe heard about Johnson's problem, he went to the same house but this time someone other than Whitten answered the door. "I have reason to believe he sold to the person at the house those dogs," Pepe told Action News, "or was using him as a broker for the dogs if you will."

But while this story has a happy ending, others are still missing their precious pets. Warrants are out for Whitten's arrest. He's wanted for multiple charges including felony theft. Whitten has a long criminal record including a conviction for unlawful sexual intercourse and kidnapping.

You're asked to call the Wilmington police at 1-800-847-3333 and the SPCA in New Castle County at 302-998-2281 with information.