Nonprofit animal rescue group NOAH hit by fuel thief

STANWOOD — They hadn’t realized anything was wrong.

Last month, a volunteer hopped in a van parked at the NOAH Center in Stanwood. The center’s three vans travel around the state — sometimes across the country — picking up animals at risk of being euthanized. They are brought back to the adoption shelter in north Snohomish County.

The volunteer drove to a nearby gas station. As soon as the pump started, gasoline poured on to the ground. The fuel line had been cut.

Randy White with the NOAH Center checked another van, which he recently had fueled up.

“It was bone-dry,” White said.

He guessed the thief made off with more than 40 gallons of gas.

White later found a cart volunteers use to haul around pet crates abandoned near the back fence of the property. When White walked back there, he smelled gasoline.

The thief also had tried to snag a propane tank from the center’s barbecue. It must have been too heavy to lift over the fence. It was left behind.

Executive Director Stacie Ventura called the theft shocking.

“To do that to a nonprofit organization who is dependent on donations,” Ventura said. “Why would someone do that to the cats and dogs?”

She has four dogs, three cats and a bunny at home.

The vans also are covered with pictures of animals. “They knew what they were stealing from,” White said.

The NOAH Center partners with 40 shelters around the country. It offers adoption, spay and neuter services, and foster programs.

“It’s amazing to see you’re making an impact each year,” Ventura said.

The NOAH Center takes in about 3,500 animals annually. She has seen a decline in the number of animals taken to shelters in Washington.

“That means we can help animals in other states,” Ventura said. “They can’t speak for themselves, so they need an advocate.”

However, one van was out of commission for about two weeks while shelter staff tracked down replacement parts. In the meantime, shelters offered to transport animals to Stanwood themselves.

The repairs cost a couple of hundred dollars. A staff member fixed the van himself to save money. Ventura said they are careful in how they choose to spend donation funds.

The van is now fully operational, but staff are keeping a mindful watch. They now park the vans in front of the building.

“I’ve been monitoring the fuel levels closely,” White said.

Police told Ventura they’re seeing more gas siphoning incidents lately. A volunteer at the center said someone had recently stolen gasoline from her car while she was grocery shopping.

Ventura said she hopes the thief won’t come back.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

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