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Women accused of pet larceny

January 04, 2006|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Diane Simmons believes her cat has been stolen.

While she says she's gotten laughs, snickers and more than a few odd looks, she continues to say that her 7-month-old cat, Kitty, was taken. And she believes she knows who has him.

Simmons has filed misdemeanor theft charges against two women whom she believes stole her cat Dec. 23.

Simmons said she and her husband, Eugene, scheduled a veterinary appointment for their cat through a Washington County Humane Society voucher program. But Simmons said she has not seen the cat since arranging for his Dec. 23 appointment at Longmeadow Animal Hospital.

She alleges the cat was stolen by Angela Crawford, a Humane Society volunteer, and Star Silva, a former Humane Society employee.

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Charges had been filed, but Crawford and Silva had not been served with court summons by Tuesday afternoon, a Washington County District Court employee said.

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society, said Silva no longer was an employee there, effective Tuesday. He declined to say why Silva no longer was an employee, citing personnel matters.

Silva, who was the coordinator of public assistance at the Humane Society, dealt mostly with voucher programs funded through Washington County or grant programs.

Miller said Crawford, a volunteer, had not been seen at the Humane Society in several months. Crawford has been a foster parent for several animals, was trained as a volunteer and took pictures for the Petfinder Web site, he said.

Simmons said she arranged to have her cat neutered using one of the Humane Society's voucher programs. Because she works, Simmons said she was unable to take the cat to the animal hospital and pick him up from the appointment.

She said that on Dec. 23, Silva and Crawford picked up the cat from Simmons' mother-in-law, who lives on Winter Street in Hagerstown, and the cat was taken to Longmeadow Animal Hospital.

Miller said the vouchers do not include drop-off or pickup service, but he knows that Silva would occasionally pick up animals from the owners, take them to animal hospitals and return them.

Miller said he knows of no reason why a Humane Society volunteer would be involved with transporting animals, but said he does not monitor his employees or volunteers when they are not working.

Instead of returning Simmons' cat, Crawford allegedly told Simmons' mother-in-law that the cat had died during the medical procedure. Simmons said Longmeadow Animal Hospital owner Dr. Tracy Barlup said the cat had not died.

Barlup cited confidentiality between doctors and clients and said she could not release any information about the cat, except to say that she was familiar with the cat.

Barlup said not even Simmons could authorize her to release information about Kitty because there was an "ownership dispute." If ownership is unclear, Barlup said, then there is no one to authorize that information about the animal be released.

Barlup said there might be a lawsuit pending about ownership. No lawsuit had been filed in Washington County District Court by Tuesday between Diane Simmons and any other party.

Crawford declined to comment Tuesday about the incident. Responding to a request for comment, Crawford said in a phone message that she planned to meet with an attorney Friday and would prefer not to answer questions until then.

Attempts to contact Silva at her home Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.

After Simmons said Crawford told her that Kitty had died, Simmons alleged Crawford changed the story. She said Crawford said the cat had been taken to a pet sanctuary for sick animals.

"I just couldn't believe it," Simmons said. "I couldn't accept it. I didn't want it to be true."

Because the incident happened before the Christmas holiday, Simmons said she was unable to look into it fully until the following week.

Simmons got the cat in the summer after noticing him at a garage sale near her home. She said she picked up the cat, and watched his small head, with orange striped fur, nuzzle against her neck.

She had been looking for one since her own cat died about two weeks before.

"He would climb on the back of my chair and rest there if I dozed off or watched TV," Simmons said. "He would follow me into the kitchen if I was cooking."

Simmons said she filed a police report Dec. 28 that the cat had been stolen. Hagerstown Police said while Simmons did report that her cat was stolen that day, officers advised Simmons about what to do, but did not file a theft report.

"They keep asking the value of the cat," she said. "Well, how do you place a value on him? He's family. No animal lover could do that."

According to court documents provided by Simmons, Crawford's trial is set for Feb. 16 in District Court.

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