CHICAGO — After a van full of dogs was stolen while parked in River West, the doggy day care company that owns the vehicle responded to what its owner said were "manipulated" reports by news organizations.
On Wednesday afternoon, a pair of gunman stole the van, which contained seven dogs. Police said the van was carjacked while it was running. Joseph Giannini, owner of Urban Out Sitters, told reporters Wednesday one of his drivers was sitting at a stoplight when he was approached by two men who put a gun to the window and told him to get out.
"The guys jumped into the car and sped off," Giannini said.
On Thursday, the van was found in the South Loop and the unharmed dogs were reunited with their owners. On Thursday evening, police released security camera footage showing the van parked and apparently unattended, as two men hop in and drive off. Police said a witness tried to stop the van, but the thieves pointed a gun at him.
On Friday, Giannini sent an email to customers, writing, "You may have felt slightly confused, as I feel somewhat slighted on the fact that much of the facts were omitted from the recent Urban Out Sitters stolen van news reports."
"First and foremost, no one at Urban Out Sitters lied to the media, nor intentionally twisted turn-of-events," he said, adding staff members "spent sleepless nights" worrying and searching for the dogs.
Video footage shows two males walking towards the van, which was parked in front of the day care's facility at 848 W. Superior St., getting inside and driving away. Giannini said the van was not unattended or running, and the employee was "only steps away in front of the van." The driver had two keys to the van, and left one in the ashtray; he thought he had locked the van, Giannini said.
The video ends after 35 seconds, and Giannini said it cut out before the driver and a dog walker chased after the van, confronting the thieves near the Milwaukee-Chicago-Ogden intersection, at which point one of the thieves pointed a gun at them.
"I had not received the full story" before speaking with reporters Wednesday, he said, adding the business has received an outpouring of support from customers.
Since the van was stolen, Urban Out Sitters has installed GPS tracking systems in its vehicles, and two-way cameras into its pet taxis, Giannini said. It has also been developing a GPS tracker for dogs to wear so that they can be easily located in the future.
"Overall, this was a horrible situation we wouldn't wish on anyone," Giannini wrote. "It has been an emotional tragedy, it was not a careless regard, or negligence."
Police said they are looking for two black men who stole the van. An investigation is ongoing.
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