It was nearly 11 pm last Thursday, June 25, when someone noticed that the dogs from the Mendocino County Animal Shelter, in south Ukiah, were loose.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched, and arrived for find about 15 dogs running loose in the parking lot of the facility, which is on Plant Road, just across the railroad tracks from the Mendocino Transit Authority yard. Also in the lot was a young man, 20-year-old Joseph William Viltrakis.
“Joey” Viltrakis does not live in Mendocino County, but was visiting from the far Northern California town of Hydesville, which is in Humboldt County just south of Eureka. He had already been in trouble in the area just two days prior, when Willits Police arrested him for resisting or obstructing an officer. He was picked up at 6:00 am on Tuesday, June 23 and released the next day on $5,000 bail for the misdemeanor offense.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, when the deputies found him Thursday night, he told them he had come to get his girlfriend’s service dog from the shelter. Then he stretched the story a bit, claiming that an employee of the shelter was there helping him, and that person caused all the other dogs to get out. That employee, according to Viltrakis, left just before the deputies arrived.
Of course, the shelter had closed some six hours earlier, at 5:00 pm that day. Further investigation confirmed the seemingly obvious notion that no shelter employee had been there at all, and that the young man now detained had been the one who forced open the two locked gates. He had then proceeded to force open over 25 locked kennels, letting the dogs run free. Several of them followed Viltrakis out to the parking lot, and were running in a pack when the deputies arrived.
A shelter employee who lives close by assisted the deputies in rounding up the loose dogs. David Jensen, of the County Public Health Services, told the Press Democrat that the freed dogs mostly stuck around the area. The dogs also only suffered two minor injuries in the two hours they were loose – an ear bite and a hip wound. He said the staff had worked to socialize the animals, which likely helped prevent a potential dog fight.
Meanwhile, after resolving the loose dog issue, deputies took Viltrakis to the Mendocino County jail, where he was booked the next morning on felony burglary, and vandalism with over $400 in damage. He was released on $10,000 bail Tuesday at 2:15 in the afternoon.
Read More: The Press Democrat: Man arrested in canine caper at Mendocino County animal shelter