Cop-Turned-Pet Detective Helps Chelsea Woman Find Stolen Pooch

By Mathew Katz on November 17, 2012 4:21pm 

CHELSEA — Roll over, Ace Ventura — there's a new pet detective in town.

Skylar the Shih Tzu was returned home after being snatched off the streets in September by an alleged dognapper — thanks to the intervention of an ex-cop now working as a "pet security consultant."

The 7-year-old pooch's owner, Maria Vazquez, said the dog was brought back to her Fulton Houses home on Nov. 12, nearly two months after he was stolen of the street.

The black-and-white pooch was taken after she tied him up at West 19th Street and Seventh Avenue on Sept. 21, leaving Vazquez heartbroken and postering the neighborhood with missing fliers.

That's when Angel Nieves, an ex-NYPD detective who now specializes in pet-related crimes, stepped in.

"He had an ongoing investigation, and I don't know if I would have gotten my baby back without him," she said of Nieve's pro-bono help.

Using his NYPD contacts and experience helping pet-owners find their lost animals, Nieves managed to get security footage of the thief snatching Skylar. He then used stills from the footage to create a poster that was plastered on nearly every block in Chelsea.

"I got a call from a man from New Jersey who said he had my dog," Vazquez said. "He said he had seen the ads. I sent out my sister, and she picked him up. It was Skylar."

Nieves said he does not believe the man who turned Skylar over was the same person who snatched him up off the street, but that he likely either unknowingly bought the dog or received it as a gift.

The 20-year NYPD veteran, who has worked as a private animal security consultant since 2007, gave his leads in the case to his contacts at the 13th Precinct.

Nieves said he could not identify the person who returned Skylar or any potential suspects in the dognapping case.

"This person, he's picked up dogs before, casually, and then run away when he was seen," Nieves said. "So he did have intent to take this dog."

Police said the investigation is ongoing, but could not confirm any additional details about the case.

Vazquez, who suffers from depression and osteoarthritis, searched far and wide in the hopes of finding Skylar, a therapeutic dog who also helps Vazquez's mother, who suffers from dementia.

Nieves, who added that he was angered upon seeing the security camera footage, said that helping Vazquez out was not about the money.

"For me, it's a reward seeing people happy with their animal," he said. "The most important thing to me is that she got the dog back."

For Vazquez, the search for her dog wasn't all bad. While at a shelter in Brooklyn that had found a Shih Tzu that turned out not to be Skylar, she came across a four-week-old black kitten set to be euthanized that she adopted and named Midnight.

For his part, Skylar has largely ignored the mischievous new addition to the family.

"My baby is back home," Vazquez said. "That's all that matters to me."

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