Mini goldendoodle
A mini goldendoodle. Times of San Diego photo

A man accused of stealing a Utah family’s dog from an RV campground alongside Mission Bay pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge of grand theft of an animal.

The Grillo family was vacationing in San Diego earlier this month when their mini-goldendoodle, Chancho, was taken from Campland on the Bay. At about 4 a.m. Aug. 2, the family discovered that the pup was missing from his crate, which was located outside of their tent, according to SDPD Lt. Adam Sharki.

Upon finding and reviewing footage from a security camera, they discovered that a stranger had led a dog that appeared to be Chancho away from the campground.

The suspect, 40-year-old Johnny Smith, was arrested a little over a week later in National City, Sharki said. The Grillos drove from Utah to San Diego the following day and were reunited with Chancho at the San Diego Police Department‘s Northern Division station.

Smith remains out of custody on $20,000 bail. The grand theft charge carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, if convicted.

In a news release announcing Chancho’s recovery, police offered the following tips for pet owners:

  • Consider microchipping your dog and keep your contact details up-to-date, especially if you move or change your telephone number
  • Consider purchasing a GPS pet tracker that can attach to your dog’s harness or collar
  • Make sure your dog always has a collar and ID tag with your name and address on it
  • Take clear photographs of your dog from various angles and update them regularly, and photos with owners help police prove ownership should the animal go missing
  • Don’t leave your dog unattended or let them off leash if you’re in an unfamiliar area

City News Service contributed to this article.


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Ellen Bullock