A dog owner in Texas increased his initial reward offer from $1,000 to $2,500 for anyone who safely returns his four-legged best friend.
Steve Liollio, a pipeline business representative in Houston, has been searching for Bennie, his missing French bulldog, since late January, and it appears Bennie was stolen from a local gas station.
“My yard boys accidentally let Bennie out on Wednesday, January 25,” Liollio told Fox News Digital via Facebook. “[We] We drove around looking for it, and with no luck, we made flyers and handed them out the next day.”
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Liollio eventually received a call from a man who found Bennie two blocks from the dog house “not even 30 minutes after he came out,” Liollio wrote to Fox News Digital.
The informant told Liollio that a man walked up from the Shell service station in Cavalcade on 45 North and claimed to be Bennie’s owner and took the small dog away.
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Surveillance videos Liollio obtained from a nearby tire store and a competing Exxon gas station appear to corroborate the informant’s account of events.
“I went through [the] footage for a couple of hours and sure enough, I find the guy who goes out into traffic and takes it away,” Liollio said.
The man who allegedly took Bennie was wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and white sneakers and was driving a truck.
“Then it goes to the Exxon across the street and it fills up,” Liollio continued. “[I] I still can’t make out a license plate, but now I have a lot of information and good photos of the guy.”
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Liollio said he obtained a copy of the man’s receipt and was able to identify the suspect’s vehicle, but police in the area determined the maroon pickup does not have a front license plate or registration sticker and likely has a fake paper tag on the back.
Fox News Digital has contacted the Houston Police Department for comment.
Liollio hasn’t gotten a call back since he went public with his “$1,000 reward, no questions asked” offer, but he remains hopeful.
“Someone has to know this guy,” Liollio wrote. “You just need to get to the right person.”
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Bennie’s abduction occurred days before the City of Houston’s Municipal Code went into effect requiring registration, microchipping and vaccination for dogs and cats at least four months of age.
The city code officially began on Wednesday, February 1.
Bennie is microchipped, but Liollio pointed out that pet microchips don’t work like GPS trackers.
“Unfortunately, they don’t have any real tracking technology, they just contain the owner’s information, so IF they turn it over to a shelter/vet, they would get my information,” Liollio wrote to Fox News Digital.
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Dog thefts in the US have reportedly increased nearly 40% since 2021 and French bulldogs are one of the most stolen dog breeds, according to AKC Reunite, a lost pet recovery service operated by the American Kennel Club.
Canine Journal, an online canine resource, reports that French bulldogs average between $1,500 and $3,000 in the US, with prices fluctuating based on breeder reputation and location.
In February 2021, Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav, were stolen from her friend Ryan Fischer, who was walking his dogs in Los Angeles.
Fischer was shot during the robbery. He survived the attack and Lady Gaga’s dogs were eventually recovered.
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Fox News Digital reported on December 5, 2022 that the man who shot Fischer was arrested and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Fox News Digital’s Lauryn Overhultz contributed to this report.