BILLINGS — Rigby the French bulldog was playing in his yard in Billings on September 12 when a stranger took him and drove off, leaving his family heartbroken.
For French bulldog owners, this is a common occurrence. The breed is in the top three of the most stolen breeds in the United States.
“He really likes chasing people in the yard. He likes eating the apples that fall off the tree," said Braya Wyatt, an 11-year-old Billings resident, on Friday. "He also loves the grass, so he’ll just sit in the shade and just lay there in the grass and play in it."
Braya and her twin sister, Dessa, loved their family dog. Their mother, Alli, said he was like another member of the family.
“It’s been hard. We still miss him," said Alli Wyatt on Friday. "It’s aggravating.”
Alli was at work that day when one of her twin daughters let 1-year-old Rigby out into their yard to use the bathroom.
A neighbor, Melissa Hewlett, witnessed the horror that happened next and immediately called Alli at work to tell her what happened.
“She said that (a woman) came down the alley and opened the gate and said, ‘Come here!’ And obviously, he loves people, so he ran,” Braya said.
Dog-napped—and still missing to this day.
Alli filed a report with Billings police the same day, but so far they have no leads.
"It’s heartbreaking. Truly. And it’s scary because I have another little one around here too. Can I trust them to play out back without me being out there? Because someone can take my true child, not just my fur baby," Alli said. "I guess locking the gate, but I don’t feel like we should have to do those things.”
According to Billings police, in 2023, 14 cases of stolen pets have been reported. Under Montana law, pets are considered property, so the value of the pet determines if the crime is a felony or misdemeanor theft. French bulldog puppies can cost anywhere from $1,500-$3,000. Stolen property valued over $1,500 is considered a felony in Montana.
The American Kennel Club labeled the French bulldog as America’s most popular dog breed in 2022.
The most common stolen dog breeds are often targeted due to their small size, high cost, and limited availability.
"You took a family member. Single mom of three. I’m trying to wrangle things together," Alli said. "I don’t have that extra expense to put in. I mean, we’ll one day get another one, but right now we just want Rigby back.”
For the Wyatt family, all that matters is bringing their four-legged friend back home.
“I would really appreciate just keeping an eye out, keep reposting things. Social media, we can use it for positive things too instead of just the negative things," Alli said. "Just keeping eyes, ears. Contact me if you want, I’m totally okay with that. We just would really like Rigby back home.”
If you have information on Rigby to share with the Wyatt family, call Alli at 406-671-8881 or contact the Billings Police Department.
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