A pit bull that was suspected of being sexually assaulted, thrown from a car and left to die on a South Los Angeles street was not assaulted at all, and its cause of death remains a mystery, police said in an update Thursday.
“It is the forensic veterinarian’s expert opinion the dog was not sexually assaulted by a person or animal,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. “… The opinion of both the treating and forensic veterinarian is that the cause of death is unknown. Lab tests on varying tissue samples are pending to help possibly identify cause of death.”
The dog, who was dubbed “Cargo” when she was found but had been named “Valerie” during her stay at the Orange County animal shelter, was discovered Aug. 6 near 85th and Main streets by members of Ghetto Rescue, a nonprofit Anaheim Hills rescue group.
The group posted a running commentary on social media during its effort to rescue to the animal, contending the dog had been thrown out of a small, dark-colored car. The dog wasn’t moving and appeared dehydrated, according to the group.
When the dog was taken to a veterinarian, she was found to be suffering from an “extremely swollen vagina,” according to the group, which noted, “We suspect she was `abused’ in the way you are thinking.” The group added that other than the “vaginal trauma,” the dog did not appear to have any other scrapes or abrasions.
The dog died shortly after being taken to the veterinary office. According to the group’s social media posts, someone at the office said the dog had suffered a ruptured aorta, possibly caused by trauma to the chest.
The Ghetto Rescue online posts generated media and public interest in the dog’s plight, prompting a series of calls to the LAPD’s Animal Cruelty Task Force, which began investigating.
Police said investigators spoke to witnesses, executed search warrants, reviewed video and ordered a secondary necropsy on the dog. The investigation found no evidence that the dog had been thrown from a car, with police saying “multiple witness accounts describe a female Hispanic dropping the dog off in front of a location, possibly several hours before the dog was recovered.”
The suggestion that the dog had suffered “vaginal trauma” was only an observation made by a veterinary technician, police said.
“This observation was not supported by the treating veterinarian, nor the forensic veterinarian,” according to the LAPD.
“It is the forensic veterinarian’s expert opinion the dog was not sexually assaulted by a person or animal,” police said. “The dog was recently spayed, possibly in heat and had several litters, which may have accounted for the (veterinary) technician’s observation.
“… The treating veterinarian saw the dog for the first time the following morning, after it had passed away. The dog had briefly recovered, was up, barking and wagging her tail before she suddenly died. The treating vet did not identify death by aortic rupture caused by blunt force trauma. The forensic veterinarian concluded the same.”
Following media reports about the dog’s death, OC Animal Care officials issued a statement on Aug. 9 saying they were cooperating with the police investigation and had decided to ban the person who adopted “Valerie” from the shelter on July 23 from adopting any more animals.
But police said Thursday the person who adopted the dog did not do so “for malicious reasons,” and investigators stressed that the dog “was not sexually assaulted” or thrown from a vehicle.
“Due to events beyond the owner’s control, the dog was placed in a home on a temporary basis,” according to the LAPD. “The owner intended on retrieving the dog when his situation was resolved. He was unaware his dog had died and is saddened by the loss.”
Anyone with more information on the case was urged to call LAPD’s Animal Cruelty Task Force at (213) 486-0450, or (877) LAPD-247.