By Daniel Silliman
Clayton County Police are following a number of "strong leads," in the investigation of a catalytic converter heist,which left two guard dogs badly injured.
The owners of the dogs said sympathetic animal lovers have reached out to them from around the metro area, offering information on the burglary.
"The tips are ... coming in from horrified animal lovers," Robin Speer wrote in an e-mail. "I believe that will be the reason these people will be apprehended."
Speer, along with her husband, Tom, operates Huntleigh Bus, a new and used bus dealership on Lee's Mills Road, alongside Interstate 75 in Forest Park.
On Friday, May 16, the Speers went in to work and found 31 of the buses in the lot had been stripped of their catalytic converters. During the night, according to the police report, some thieves cut their way into the fenced lot and, using a reciprocating saw, cut off the exhaust-pipe boxes bolted to the undersides of the vehicles.
According to police, the catalytic converters are frequently stolen from shuttle buses and school buses for the platinum inside. The precious metal, worth about $2,000 per ounce, coats the ceramic "honeycomb" inside the catalytic converter. The platinum breaks down the nitrogen oxide and oxidizes the carbon monoxide in the exhaust, reducing pollution.
Most of the thefts, though, involve one catalytic converter or a few catalytic converters at a time. The catalytic converters from 31 buses could be hard to sell to an area platinum buyer unnoticed, according to Capt. Greg Dickens, and most junkyard and precious metal dealers keep records of all their sales.
The Speers said they weren't really upset by the theft, even though it will cost them about $1,000 each to replace. Mostly, the Speers were upset and shocked by the attack on their two guard dogs, Loco and Misty.
Loco, a male Rottweiler, was beaten with a board or a shovel, and when the Speers arrived on Friday morning he couldn't walk. Misty, a female Rottweiler, was attacked with the same saw used to chop the converters off of the buses. Her ear was cut, the side of her face was cut and her fur was matted with blood.
Though an initial report from the police department said Misty was dead, Robin Speer said both dogs survived the "horrendous animal cruelty" and emergency surgery.
"Both dogs survived the attack, but will never work as guard dogs again," she wrote.
The Speers got the animals, both trained as guard dogs, after previous thefts, along with a lot of high-powered lights. They said they never imagined, though, that a thief would choose to attack Misty and Loco instead of just moving on to the next target.
The Speers won't use guard dogs to protect Huntleigh Bus, anymore, because they won't put the dogs in that kind of danger. Robin Speer said she didn't know what they would do for security, but hoped the police would bring the thieves to justice.
Anyone with information about the theft and dog-attack can call the police at (770) 473-5400.