Missing dogs reportedly being held for ransom

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It's heartbreaking enough to lose a pet, but to find out someone is holding it for ransom is incomprehensible. A south Phoenix woman says it's happening to her, with two of her Yorkshire terriers.

"I walked up and down these streets until midnight and nothing," said Ashley Ellis. Ellis fought back tears as she described the panic and fear she's endured for weeks. She says her two "Yorkies," named Coco and Louis, got loose in her south Phoenix neighborhood several weeks ago. She says she's tried everything, reached out on social media and Craigslist. "I put over 300 fliers up. People keep tearing them down," she said.

The dogs are not only family pets, but also service dogs for Ellis' mother-in-law, who's battling ovarian cancer. "Days when she didn't feel like getting out of bed Coco would stay in the cage and not move stay in all day," she said.

Ellis says just as she was losing hope, someone called the number on the flier she had posted that offered a reward. It turns out that person wanted the cash. "This guy is saying he has our dogs doesn't want to give them back; holding them ransom. He wants cash," she said.

The calls continued. Ellis says she plead for the dogs, saying she didn't have the money. She even recorded the conversation with the stranger, who can be heard saying "You know what? You ain't gonna get your dogs back."

Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes says a detective made phone contact with the suspect, who was uncooperative. "We don't know if that suspect actually has the dogs, but once you admit you have someone's property, that becomes extortion. That is an attempt to get money for property that does not belong to you," he said.

It's news Ellis certainly doesn't want to hear, especially with a sick mother-in-law and a heartbroken six-year-old boy. "He wants his dogs home," Ellis says. "He has a flier hanging above his bed because he said he wants to remember his dogs."

Anyone with information on the dogs should contact Phoenix Police at 602-262-6141 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.