The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has arrested a man suspected of breaking into an animal shelter in Jurupa Valley and stealing three dogs last week.

Sheriff’s officials said 20-year-old Tymothy Burns-Whitney was arrested as part of the investigation.

Detectives believe Burns-Whitney worked with a second unidentified man to break into the shelter and steal the three dogs on behalf of a woman who may have been their previous owner. The robbery was caught on security cameras.

“We believe they cut through the exterior fence and then used bolt cutters to get through some of the other areas where we do have some locks,” said John Welsh of Riverside County Animal Services.

Last Wednesday around 4 a.m., two men, one of them wearing a red mask, broke into the back of the shelter and got into the kennels where they looked for a particular group of dogs.

Tymothy Burns-Whitney is accused of breaking into the Jurupa Valley shelter and stealing three dogs on behalf of an associate (Riverside County Sheriff's Department)
Tymothy Burns-Whitney is accused of breaking into the Jurupa Valley shelter and stealing three dogs on behalf of an associate (Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

Animal Services officials said that three dogs were taken from a homeless encampment earlier this month after a man suffered a serious bite from a “gray pit bull.” The victim refused to identify which dog bit him, which led to two dogs being impounded. A third dog was found at the encampment and was malnourished and in need of medical attention, Animal Services said.

“Our understanding is that these dogs are not owned by these two men,” Welsh said. “They’re owned by a woman they happen to know.”

That woman is possibly the former owner of one or all of the dogs.

“In the world of these encampments, everybody sort of knows everybody so they might have been doing this as a favor to this particular dog owner,” Welsh said.

The dogs were being held in quarantine for the alleged attack and were due to be released only a day after they were stolen.

Josh Sisler, commander of the Field Services Division, said although the dog bite was serious, “it would not have prevented the owner the opportunity to get her pets back.”

Animal Services officials said they are always willing to work with dog owners whenever pets are impounded and grants are available for those experiencing homelessness to pay for fees to have their animals released.

Burns-Whitney was arrested Friday at an undisclosed location. The second suspect in this break-in remains sought by authorities.

This is at least the second time someone has broken into the Jurupa Valley shelter and stolen several dogs. Three more dogs were stolen from the shelter back in April.