TATE COUNTY, Miss. -- More than 40 dogs have been reportedly stolen in rural Mississippi in less than a month.
Pet owners turned to WREG, desperate for help after they said their dogs were taken out of their own back yards, and some claimed law enforcement was not doing enough to find them.
Teneil Westmoreland was heartbroken after her dog Marley was stolen out of her yard in Coldwater, Mississippi.
She said a 4-door silver car pulled into her driveway and someone inside took pictures of Marley.
"I ran inside. I grabbed my gun, grabbed my dog and told him to go inside. He went inside, and they peeled off," she said.
Several days later, she said they came back and took Marley while her boyfriend was mowing the yard.
Since Westmoreland posted about Marley on social media, she says more than 40 other Tate and Marshall County pet owners have come forward about stolen dogs.
The Senatobia-Tate County Animal Shelter's received more than a dozen reports like this within the last month.
Many feared pets were being stolen as bait dogs for fighting rings.
"They are going to look for a breed like a boxer or another pit bull or something like that, but I don't think they're too particular for what they're going to steal for a bait dog," John Phelps with the shelter said.
The Tate County Sheriff said Marley was the only stolen dog report they have received recently.
But, while he did not have specific numbers, he said there have been a lot over the last few months.
The animal shelter said the Sheriff's office has not broken up a single dog fighting ring in at least six years, and some worry whether their reports are being taken seriously.
"The officer that we talked to took our statement, but he wrote it down on a piece of notebook paper," Westmoreland said. "It was very informal."
Meanwhile, Westmoreland had a message for whoever stole Marley, the dog she calls her son.
"We're coming for you," she said. "We want our son back, and I'm on a mission to help everybody in the neighborhood locate their animals as well."
The shelter has asked pet owners to not leave their dogs unattended outside and to get them micro-chipped.