A dog-loving retired police sergeant in Orange County has taken it upon herself to protect the furriest of family members by offering armed dog walking escorts.
Unfortunately, it’s has become an all too familiar and terrifying trend, thieves targeting dog owners often with a violent outcome.
Probably one of the most memorable of these pup heists was the violent attack on Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga’s dog walker, in West Hollywood in Feb. 2021. Fischer was walking the pop star’s French Bulldogs when a car pulled up, three men got out and shot him before fleeing. Both of the dogs were later returned to Lady Gaga.
The man responsible for shooting Fischer, James Howard Jackson, was later captured and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
That famous dognapping was enough for Carol Salvatierra, now retired from the Santa Ana Police Department, to launch Leash and Shield, an armed dog walking and bodyguard service where the motto is “To Protect and Walk.”
“I was in shock,” Salvatierra told KTLA’s John Fenoglio. “I though, my god, if that ever happened to me, I’d be devastated because I love dogs.”
The retired sergeant owns a dog herself, a 12-year-old poodle named Teddy.
Some dog owners might scoff at the idea of an armed escort while Fido steps outside to do his or her business and get a little exercise, but according to the American Kennel Club, around two million dogs in the United States are stolen every year and only about 10% of owners ever get them back.
“I haven’t looked at the stats lately, but as you can tell from current events, it’s still happening,” Salvatierra said.
Just last week in North Hollywood, a woman was brutally beaten, and her dog stolen by a man and a woman inside a 7-Eleven on Burbank Boulevard. Fortunately, that victim has been reunited with her pup.
Police say that thieves are often looking for high-end breeds like French Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers that can be sold on the black market for thousands of dollars.
“It’s actually peace of mind and that’s what I try to provide,” Salvatierra said of her clients. “They know I’m a professional.
Hiring this armed professional trained in crime prevention starts at about $60 an hour and varies from there depending on the types of services, be it dog walking, pet sitting or home protection, she offers.
Salvatierra says one thing she does quite often is train her clients on how to be aware of their surroundings, which can mean no flashy jewelry on people or their pets while out on walks. After 27 years of law enforcement experience, she says people needing an armed dog walker is just the world we live in and that where criminals are concerned, nothing surprises her.
As for why she’s choosing to protect people’s pets instead of the people themselves, she believes dog owners know where she’s coming from.
“Is it bad to say I like dogs better than people?” she said, laughing. “Honestly, you’re going to find it corny, but I think that dogs are angels sent to us from heaven.”