This article was updated on Sept. 4, 2014
TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, August 28
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
A Bethpage woman was arrested Aug. 26 for stealing a pit bull from the Huntington Animal Shelter in East Northport, Suffolk County police said.
According to a town public safety official – who relayed the information to town spokesman A.J. Carter – Melissa Saldarriaga entered the animal shelter with an unknown male at around 3 p.m. The individuals claimed they wanted to adopt a dog and were asked to sign in before being taken to the area where the dogs are kept. Saldarriaga allegedly signed in under a false name.
After leading the two individuals to the dogs, the attendant went back into the office only to later look up when he heard the dogs barking. The attendant then allegedly saw the pair and a pit bull fleeing from the shelter towards a nearby “getaway” car.
According to the public safety official, the attendant chased after them but was unable to beat the man and pit bull to the vehicle, which drove off when Saldarriaga signaled for it to leave without her.
The attendant took Saldarriaga, born in 1995, back to the shelter and contacted police who soon arrived and arrested her.
Carter said the dog was turned into the shelter a month ago by the owner of a property in Huntington Station.
“It’s certainly a very unusual affair,” Carter said. “There are a lot of dots that [still] have to be connected.”
As of Aug. 30, Suffolk County police would not release further information regarding the incident other than to say that Saldarriaga was charged with petit larceny and false personation, and was later released.
On Tuesday, police confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation surrounding the case, and Carter confirmed that the pit bull still had not been found. Carter added that there are security measures in place at the shelter and that this was a “very rare occurrence.”
“Something like this maybe has happened twice in 30 years,” Carter said. “It’s so rare that this won’t prompt changes to the security measures [at the shelter].”
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander (Thursday, August 28, 2014; A10)