RENO, NV - The owners of a Spanish Springs home had every reason to believe their dogs were safe and secure when they left them Saturday morning.
But they returned to a horrible sight; their Shih Tzu lay dead on their living room floor, their Pekingese just inside the home and their black lab in a bathroom, the pit bulls standing over her.
After tearing through three fences, the pit bulls had entered the home through the dog door.
Experts at Washoe Animal Services say that detail is unusual, but they have seen it before.
"Last year we had some incidents out in the Spanish Springs area where coyotes were jumping fences and in a couple of instances went through a dog door and killed pets inside," says Animal Services Field Supervisor Bobby Smith.
Smith says it's more common to see skunks and raccoons use a dog door to enter a home.
They can offer human intruders access as well.
"It's fairly common, yes," says Reno Police Officer Tim Broadway. "I would say two or three times a month we get reports that a home has been burglarized through a dog door."
Neither man, however, would tell you not to install one of these doors. They say you should do your homework and use the locking security doors when needed.
"Look at the customer reviews for strength," says Broadway. "Look at the available products, the metal doors to cover them up to keep anybody from making entry."
"But," Smith adds, "do what's necessary to keep your pet safe."
Pet doors are popular. They're sold at pet stores and home improvement centers like Lowe's where they come in a variety of sizes for installation in solid doors and walls or sliding patio doors.
They usually have a locking door to make them inoperable when you're away from home, but the ultimate may be the new electronic doors.
They're activated only by an electronic sensor worn on your dog or cat's collar. It works for them and them only.
One model sold at Lowe's can even be activated or turned off remotely through your smart phone, as part of an overall home security and energy management system.
Prices range from under $100 to more than $300 for the more sophisticated electronic models.