By Julia Bennett Rylah
HOLLYWOOD — Pop star Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs were stolen in a violent attack Feb. 24 that left a dog walker wounded. Though the dogs have since been returned, the thieves have not been arrested and many questions remain.
Ryan Fischer was walking Gaga’s three dogs in the 1500 block of Sierra Bonita Ave. at about 9:40 p.m., when two men in a white Nissan Altima pulled up and demanded Fischer hand over the animals. As Fischer struggled with the men, one of them shot him in the chest. The men then drove off with two of Gaga’s dogs, Gustavo and Koji, and left the third dog, Asia, behind.
The incident occurred in front of Carlos Pantoja’s home, who told the L.A. Times he was watching a movie with his boyfriend when he heard Fischer scream for help. Pantoja’s Ring camera caught video footage of the attack, which he provided to investigators and media outlets.
Fischer was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and is expected to make a full recovery. Fischer’s family thanked Gaga for her “non-stop love and concern for Ryan” and asked for privacy as Fischer recovers.
On March 1, Fischer posted two photos of himself in the hospital to Instagram, saying he is “still in recovery from a very close call with death” and thanking the first responders and health care workers who saved his life, his family, Gaga, and her team.
Lady Gaga, who is currently in Europe shooting a film, posted about the incident to her 46.3 million Instagram followers. She announced a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her dogs and called Fischer a “hero.”
Two days after the theft, the LAPD announced that a woman brought both dogs to the department’s Olympic Station, where she met with detectives and Lady Gaga’s staff. Investigators do not believe that the woman was involved in the robbery.
“The woman found the dogs and reached out to Lady Gaga’s staff to return them,” a statement from the LAPD said. “The woman’s identity and the location the dogs were found will remain confidential due to the active criminal investigation and for her safety.”
It’s not clear at this point how the woman found the dogs, or if the dognappers knew that the French bulldogs belonged to Lady Gaga and hoped to hold them for ransom.
While the particular case may attract attention due to its violent nature and celebrity owner, dog theft isn’t uncommon. According to animal nonprofit Paws, purebreds are the most commonly stolen dogs, especially toys, puppies and designer breeds. The thieves may wait for a reward to be offered or they may sell the animal to a third party.
French bulldogs are among those prized breeds. They are difficult to breed and therefore expensive. Karin TarQwyn, a private investigator who specializes in pet cases, told Slate that French bulldogs are the most commonly stolen breed and they can fetch thousands of dollars through sales or rewards. However, she said it’s not common for people to snatch them at gunpoint.
But in L.A., violent dog thefts have occurred before. Last month, two English bulldog puppies were stolen from a North Hollywood home. The dog owners said a woman contacted them about adopting one of the puppies, but arrived with two men who assaulted them before fleeing with the puppies.
Juliet Bennett Rylah is a freelance reporter who covers Hollywood and West Hollywood. She can be reached at email@example.com.