by Lauren Krupar

Reporter

Cuyahoga Falls -- As police continue searching for suspects responsible for setting a fire in a van Jan. 7 that killed two purebred Vizsla show dogs, a reward fund continues to grow.

Cuyahoga Falls police Lt. Mike Gay said the department is "actively pursuing suspects" in the case and continues to investigate in partnership with the Munroe Falls Police Department.

The Rubber City Kennel Club and the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club have combined to post a reward of $10,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

"We felt that it was a serious enough crime that the police were going to need some assistance," said Paul Morehouse, president of the Rubber City Kennel Club. "Once the word gets out on the reward, someone will talk."

The Vizsla show dogs were inside a van left running outside the Sheraton Suites hotel the morning of Jan. 7. When the dogs' breeder, a member of the Connecticut club, went back to the hotel to get a few more items before heading to the Summit County fairgrounds at Tallmadge, someone stole the van.

Munroe Falls Police recovered the van at 8:51 a.m. near the intersection of Gaylord Drive and Carolyn Road. Munroe Falls Police said the suspect started a small fire in the front passenger seat before abandoning the vehicle.

The dogs were found inside two cages in the rear of the van, but had died from smoke inhalation, representatives from both police departments said.

While police were searching for the vehicle, word had spread at the last day of the Rubber City Kennel Club's dog show and a reward fund was established.

"We had hundreds of people who walked by and dropped money into a box at the fairground," Morehouse said. "At one point, we had literally 15 people fighting to put money into the box."

Once word of the fire spread, the donations grew.

"There's a lot of competition between the dog people, but this hit a raw nerve," Morehouse said. "Everybody thought that these dogs could have been their dogs."

Soon after the Rubber City Kennel Club fund was established, the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club set up a fund as well. Together, the funds have received $10,000 in donations and are still growing.

To donate to the reward fund, call the kennel club at 330-689-0014.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Cuyahoga Falls Police at 330-971-8334.

E-mail: lkrupar@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3141