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Family claims their pet held for ransom

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He's handsome, pampered and eats turkey on a regular basis. "Prince" is a beloved member of the McCracken family who pretty much does whatever he wants.

"He usually goes outside to roll over on his belly in the sun," said Erin McCracken, Prince's owner.

Last Tuesday Prince vanished.

McCracken said, "Honestly, from where we were looking, it was almost as if he had disappeared...not even a sign that he had been there."

She and Prince had been virtually inseparable for four years.

"I knew almost immediately something was wrong," said McCracken.

Prince has a microchip, the family put up missing cat signs and posted a reward on Craigslist, but a week went by and there was still no sign of Prince.

McCracken said, "We got a phone call from the microchip company that said your cat Prince has been found please call the Spicewood Springs Animal Clinic."

"I think most people think that a microchip is almost a GPS system, but a microchip relies on that pet being brought into somewhere with a scanner...and that pet being scanned and then the person who has the pet, wanting to return the pet," said Barak Benaryeh, the owner and veterinarian at the Spicewood Springs Animal Hospital where Prince was brought in.

Benaryeh said, "Whoever brought that animal in becomes our client and our responsibility is to our clients."

The young man who brought him in agreed to have Prince scanned, but then decided to take him home anyway.

"We're not a policing organization. We don't confiscate pets from people and we don't know if this pet even has an owner, just because it has a microchip," said Benaryeh.

"The vet tech came out and said your cat is not here. We sent him home with his new owner and his name is Charlene," McCracken said. "Every ounce of hope I had for getting my cat back just vanished."

Because of confidentiality, the animal hospital couldn't release Prince's new owners' contact information.

"They called them and they didn't answer...still didn't answer...the only way we could figure out to get that information was to call APD and get a subpoena," added McCracken.

Finally, Prince's new owners called the McCracken family.

"They were demanding almost a ransom for a family pet," Erin said. "They wanted $200 cash and to meet my father in a parking lot at night."

They paid and now, Prince is back home.

"There's some blood here," said Erin. "There's a cut on top of his head."

Plus, some road rash on his belly.

"My mom got a message on her iPad and an email that said your post has been deleted," said her brother, Matt.

Benaryeh added, "I've never dealt with such awful people who wouldn't return a pet to it's owner."

"Any animal is at risk for being taken and every animal should be microchipped," McCracken said.

For Prince, it looks like his days of basking in the sun are over.

"Whoever your girlfriend is, you're never seeing her again. Sorry buddy," added Erin. "If we can leash train him, then maybe he can go outside, but other than that it's not happening."

Prince was found 30 miles away from his home and in case you're wondering, Persian cats like Prince sell for $1,500 online.

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