Lifestyle & Human Interest

After Breaking Into Pet Rescue Van, Thief Pulls Gun on Pet Rescue Founder, Vandalizes Car


Like many rescues, the Denver-based Red Fern Animal Rescue is run by a small group of dedicated volunteers. They don’t have extensive funds or an influx of donations, so much of the work they do is out-of-pocket and from the heart.

Gregg Bartlett and his wife, Melissa, are the founders of the rescue and have a heart for needy dogs — especially abused and neglected dogs from overpopulated areas of Texas, which is the focus of their operation.

But on Friday, the rescue suffered a massive blow to their efforts — and nearly lost their founder — when Bartlett went out to open the rescue’s transport van.

Unlocking and opening up the passenger side door, Bartlett was greeted with a very unexpected sight: A man was hunched over in the driver’s seat, fiddling with the ignition.

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“The guy was sitting in the seat, and as soon as I opened the door, it was like he jumped up, and then he had a handgun right in his hand,” Bartlett told KDVR.

“Your heart, I can’t even explain it, that could have been the end of my life right there.”

Bartlett ran, and eventually so did the would-be thief — but not before he had removed parts from the car and left the ignition a tattered mess.

Now the van, which was used to transport at-risk dogs and get rescue dogs to vet appointments, is currently of no use to the rescue.

“We use almost all of our own money always, so this just throws us at a huge inconvenience. All these animals are in limbo now, maybe for a week or two,” Bartlett said, his voice breaking.

“So we’re gonna do whatever we can just to, you know, get it on the road again.”

“We are all volunteers, and there is nobody on payroll. We spend thousands of dollars a year out of our own money just to do this for the animals, and it’s a labor of love. There’s a lot of sadness and crying doing this work, too, but we do it all for these animals because they can’t speak for themselves whatsoever.”

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A kindhearted local has volunteered to do the repair work if the parts can be provided. A GoFundMe has been set up to raise funds for those parts.

So far, $9,754 has been raised to get the van back up and running, so the dedicated couple can get back to doing their important work.

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