News

Case of animal cruelty sparks widespread outrage

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

King County Animal Services is investigating a felony animal cruelty case that led to a 3-month-old pit bull puppy being covered in chemical burns and becoming the focus of animal lovers criticizing the agency.

On March 10, a woman found the dog in a neighbor's backyard in Federal Way. It was bleeding and its skin was sloughing off. The woman took the dog to Auburn Veterinary Hospital, where the staff called the county's animal control agency and 9-1-1.

After Federal Way Police officers went to the veterinarian's office, it was determined the best action to take was euthanize the dog, which was in obvious pain, officials said.

King County Animal Services took the body, documented its wounds and kept its fabric collar before disposing of the dog. That last step has riled people who say the agency botched the investigation.

A spokesman for the agency defended the disposal, saying a necropsy (an animal autopsy) wasn't necessary.

Representatives of Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal welfare group based in Sultan, has criticized the county agency and the Federal Way Police Department, claiming they haven't done enough to find the perpetrator.

Al Dams, assistant manager for King County Animal Services, called the criticism "unfair" and said the agency is doing its job properly

"Of course we take (the case) seriously," he said.

A necropsy wasn't performed because it wouldn't reveal any more evidence, according to Dams.

The burns on the dog were caused by a caustic substance, and the cause of death was the euthanasia, he said.

When asked why the collar wasn't tested for information about the substance, Dams said testing wouldn't point to who may have been responsible for the dog's injuries. If the collar needs to be tested, it will be, he said.

On its Web site, Pasado Safe Haven urged people to e-mail local and national news organizations and laid out "talking points" for letter writers. The Mirror has received more than 40 such letters from throughout Washington and other states.

Police and animal services officials took statements from the veterinary staff, the puppy's owner and neighbors after the dog's death.

Police spokeswoman Stacy Flores said the owner wasn't aware the puppy had gotten out of its yard. The dog was found almost a block from its home.

Dams said Monday the county agency's officials were still talking to neighbors to learn if anyone saw what happened to the dog. A witness or a confession is what is needed to solve the case, he said.

Since the case involves animal cruelty, it was turned over to animal services, Flores said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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