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‘A devastating loss’: Thieves allegedly rip off $25K worth of therapy dog equipment

WATCH: Thieves have targeted a Vancouver based non-profit that provides therapy dog services to those in need.

A Vancouver therapy dog organization is reeling after the alleged theft of more than $25,000 worth of specialized equipment from a van in the West End.

Quille Kaddon, program manager with Vancouver ecoVillage, said the organization held a therapy dog event for students at the University of British Columbia on Wednesday.

Afterward, the equipment was loaded into a van where it was left locked overnight near Henshaw Lane and Cardero Street. The next morning it was gone.

“This is a devastating loss for us,” said Kaddon.

Vancouver ecoVillage says someone took the only stroller the organization has for one of its disabled therapy dogs.
Vancouver ecoVillage says someone took the only stroller the organization has for one of its disabled therapy dogs. Vancouver EcoVillage

The missing equipment includes about 50 custom-made embroidered harnesses, custom leashes, collars, ID badges, bags and cooling gel dog mats.

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Kaddon said the alleged thieves even took the only stroller it has for ‘Vita,” a disabled therapy dog that Kaddon described as the organization’s mascot.

“These are not items that we can replace in a hurry. It takes about a year to create one of these harnesses because we have to order them well ahead of time,” she said.

“It’s not stuff we buy from the web or we can buy from Amazon or anything like that.”

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Vancouver ecoVillage is a registered non-profit that provides a variety of therapeutic and mental health and wellness services and has about 50 trained and certified therapy dogs of varying breeds.

A number of duffel bags filled with equipment were reportedly stolen from a van in the West End.
A number of duffel bags filled with equipment were reportedly stolen from a van in the West End. Vancouver EcoVillage
Vancouver ecoVillage says it is worried the alleged thieves will sell the dog harnesses to people who want to fake having therapy dogs.
Vancouver ecoVillage says it is worried the alleged thieves will sell the dog harnesses to people who want to fake having therapy dogs. Vancouver EcoVillage
A number of ID badges are also missing, the organization says.
A number of ID badges are also missing, the organization says. Vancouver EcoVillage
Vancouver EcoVillage
Vancouver EcoVillage
Vancouver EcoVillage
Vancouver EcoVillage

Kaddon said the alleged theft has left the organization in a difficult position, as it has at least one therapy dog event booked every week at schools and companies around the region in the coming months.

“I mean, we have the raw material, which in this case is dogs, but our handlers won’t have any of the equipment,” she said.

“It’s going to be a bit of a sad series of events for all of us.”

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Small Okanagan society makes big difference for sick patients, the elderly and nervous travelers
Small Okanagan society makes big difference for sick patients, the elderly and nervous travelers

What’s more, Kaddon said she’s concerned the alleged thieves may try to sell the harnesses to unscrupulous dog owners who are looking to fake having a therapy dog.

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“Some of these dogs have been becoming very aggressive and bitten people,” she said.

“They can go into malls and airports and airplanes and hospitals and lots of different places where the public could potentially be in danger.”

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Vancouver police have confirmed officers are investigating the reported incident but said no arrests had been made.

Kaddon said the organization’s insurance didn’t cover theft because as a small non-profit, it had opted to spend the money on programming and equipment, rather than extra coverage.

She said it is hoping to recover the equipment, and is asking people to keep an eye on websites like Craigslist and Kajiji for any of the missing items.

On Saturday, Kaddon said a donations page has been set up to raise money for new equipment, and wants people to donate there instead of offering equipment that can’t be used.

“Our equipment and insignia is very unique and cannot be bought at regular stores,” she said. “Therefore, instead of product or in-kind donations we are asking people to help us by donating money safely via our website so that we can start to recoup some of our losses.”