Prosecutor: No charges to be filed in stolen sheep dog case
No charges will be filed in the case of a pregnant sheep dog named Bella that was stolen from the Fishtail area in July, sparking a criminal investigation, public outcry and the eventual return of the dog to its owner through the assistance of law enforcement and a prosecutor.
Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde said this week she will not pursue criminal charges in the case.
“I’ve decided more county resources should not be expended in what would become a nasty fight between stock growers and how to define and care for a guard dog and others who believe stock dogs, working dogs and/or guard dogs may fall into a category of abuse or neglect,” said Rohde.
Bella was reported missing to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office by her owner, Fishtail resident Domingo Lozano, on July 25. Lozano reported that the Akbash sheep dog that had been tending sheep in a field near the Cowboy Bar and Supper Club and had gone missing.
Lozano feared the dog had been taken by an individual who lives in the area and transported to Billings, which is exactly what had occurred, according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office dispatch records and Rohde.
Stillwater County Undersheriff Chip Kem assigned the case to a deputy and provided Lozano with contact information for predator control — a federal program used to guard against predatory losses in such situations as he had already lost at least two sheep in the wake of Bella’s absence.
Six weeks passed before Bella and her 12 puppies were recovered from a Billings residence and returned to Lozano by Rohde, a sheriff’s deputy and an Absarokee veterinarian.
In the time between the alleged theft and Bella’s return, the public outcry in Absarokee, Fishtail and Nye grew. Fliers were posted on social media and around town about a sheep dog being stolen from a highly respected “sheepman” and animal lover, leaving his sheep unprotected from predators like bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes.
The flier also stated that Stillwater County authorities knew the location of the alleged thief in Billings but in more than “six weeks they’ve produced no known results.”
The flier urged people to call Rohde’s office and ask why. The fliers also listed her phone number.
Rohde said many people did call about the case, as well as some in-person visits. But, she maintains that it was evidence from the investigation that led to Bella and puppies being retrieved and returned to Lozano.
Rohde has not directly offered a motive in the alleged theft, but it is widely believed the suspect thought Bella was being neglected.
Lozano is a Peruvian and U.S. citizen who is highly regarded in the south county as a knowledgeable man who takes excellent care of his flock and relies heavily on Bella to do so. Lozano runs his sheep on a handful of pastures and ranch properties.