The town's Police Department received a call from a concerned resident regarding the dogs around 3 p.m. Dec. 31, Police Chief Robert Dowd said.
It took around 12 hours to catch the critters, officials said.
The animals were located at a trucking company lot around 74th Street and Tonnelle Avenue. However, capturing the furry family was easier said than done.
“They were able to visually locate the dogs, but at first patrol was having a hard time corralling them, because they're quite fast,” Dowd said.
Though media reports originally claimed the dogs included a mother dog and her puppies, further examination at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. — where the dogs are being held -- determined them to be puppies of around 9 months of age. According to Kaley Nugent, St. Hubert’s marketing and communications director, the dogs are two males and one female.
Dogs are considered puppies until they’re a year old.
The officers eventually called in Geoffrey Santini, the town's animal control officer, to come and help catch the dogs.
Santini brought his workers and two North Bergen High School football players -- one of them his son – to help. The combined effort captured two of the puppies that evening.
“We weren't able to corral the [third] puppy that night,” Dowd said. “He was a little elusive.” With temperatures dropping into the teens, the group had to call off their search.
“They did set up a crate with some warm blankets, hoping that maybe the dog would find and utilize it during the night,” Dowd said.
The following afternoon, Captain Robert Farley Jr. met with Santini and the volunteers for a second, successful search.
“Through some exhaustive efforts, they were able to corral that puppy, using an animal snare we had in the patrol car,” Dowd said.
Officers took the puppy to his family at the New Jersey Humane Society Shelter in West New York, which Santini operates. They were later taken to St. Hubert’s, where workers are assessing them medically and behaviorally before putting them up for adoption.
At the site where the dogs were found, someone was apparently caring for them, volunteers said.
“When we came, there was a blanket here; that's where the dogs were sleeping,” said Sgt. Victor Queiro, one of the responding officers, pointing to an area at the site in front of a chain-link fence. “They were scared and shaking. Somebody was feeding them; there was clothes and water.”
Though the dogs started barking at the approaching volunteers, they did not show any aggression and did not try attacking them, according to Santini.
“They were barking because they were afraid,” Santini said. “They're nice dogs; they were friendly.”
“I got a call from my boss, Santini, who asked if I could get down there and help them out,” said Christopher Lopez, 17, a NBHS football player who volunteers for the NJ Humane Society. “So I responded and there was a bunch of cops down here. The third puppy outmaneuvered us.”
Michael Santini, 16, another NBHS football player and Santini's son, also came to help. He also noted that the third dog was a challenge.
“It was very hard to get that dog,” Santini said. “The dog was running around the area fast. We chased it around this entire lot. It was actually a very good experience; it was like football all over again.”
Who left them?
North Bergen police have launched an investigation to find out who left the dogs.
If someone dumped the dogs there, said Dowd, it’s a “terrible thing to do to these animals, because, as you can see by their photos, they're beautiful. I would speculate that charges are highly probable.”
He added that it isn't likely the dogs escaped from a home, because the department has not received any reports.
“I know if I owned three beautiful animals, and they escaped from my home, and it's been two days, I certainly would've called the police looking for them,” he said.
Anyone in town who notices an unattended animal is advised to call the Humane Society at 201-822-7333. Those with any information on the dogs’ owners are asked to contact the North Bergen Police Department at 201-392-2100.
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