Man charged after telephone tip leads to stolen puppy
By COLLEEN JENKINS
© St. Petersburg Times,
PORT RICHEY -- Forget about a dog being merely a man's best friend.
When a tipster called the Mr. Puppy pet store Saturday evening with the whereabouts of a stolen chihuahua, assistant manager Kandi Chambers was so overjoyed that she decided to take matters into her own hands.
After calling Pasco sheriff's deputies to direct them to the designated place, she set up a stakeout of her own.
"I was not going to let it go that easily," she said.
Chambers closed the pet store in Gulf View Square mall at 9 p.m. Saturday, then picked up her husband at their home. Together, around 10:30 p.m., they drove to the home of Jason Casler on Grace Drive, where the tipster said the dog would be.
And they waited, for both Casler and the deputies.
At about 12:45 a.m., the deputies showed up. Casler didn't roll in until 1:30 a.m. But the stakeout proved worthwhile.
The chihuahua was there.
As it turns out, the pooch has been at Casler's home since May 26, the night after it was stolen from the pet store. But Casler isn't the man responsible for snatching the chihuahua. On Monday, Chambers told the Times about the journey this tiny $880 pup had taken since his disappearance from Mr. Puppy.
Casler, who didn't return phone calls Monday, told Chambers that two men had shown up at Jungle Jack's bar on 6434 Westport Drive late Friday night with a chihuahua puppy. They wanted to sell it for $100. Having grown up with chihuahuas as pets, Casler was interested. He thought it was a little weird that the men didn't have registration papers for the dog, but he bought the pooch anyway.
The tipster who called Mr. Puppy on Saturday evening gave store employees Casler's name and address. And after waiting three hours outside Casler's home Saturday night, Chambers saw that he still had the chihuahua. When deputies informed him that his puppy was stolen, Casler got upset. He had already started potty-training his new pet, but he hadn't come up with a name yet, said Chambers.
"He took good care of him," Chambers said. "(The puppy) was very clean."
Casler identified Jason Matthew Cossaboon, 22, of 9734 Westport Drive, Port Richey, as the man he'd purchased the pup from and said Cossaboon had more puppies at his home. Chambers accompanied deputies to Cossaboon's home, where they did not find any other pups. They did find Cossaboon, who denied knowing anything about the puppy. But Chambers recognized him as the man she'd seen in her store wearing jeans with big pockets on the day the chihuahua was stolen.
Cossaboon was arrested and charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. He is being held at the county jail in Land O'Lakes in lieu of a $5,000 bail.
Back at Mr. Puppy, the chihuahua is now being kept behind the front desk for safekeeping. With him is another tiny buddy, a cairn terrier. The two were part of a trio nicknamed the "Three Stooges" by store employees. The third, a Yorkshire terrier, was stolen May 30 and has not been retrieved.
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