A "thin, but very energetic" dog that is part of a suspected animal cruelty investigation is now missing from her owner's home, and authorities are trying to figure out if she's been stolen, officials said Friday.
The female pit bull mix had been the subject of Facebook posts for about a week after the owner's neighbor posted a photo that showed the dog looking to be underweight, describing the dog as "starving," according to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
County animal officers went to the Fetlock Way home on Tuesday to investigate the dog's health, photographed her and recorded video of her, noting the dog was "thin, but also very energetic and even a bit hyper."
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Officers decided her health was not concerning enough to seize the animal under state guidelines, but they did discuss the pup's health with the owner, officials said. An animal control officer gave the owner a violation notice that the dog be taken to a vet for examination within 48 hours.
"The dog is hyper and energetic — not lethargic, but the dog is thin," Riverside County Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said. "We cannot just seize a dog on the spot for being thin. We have to give the dog owner a reasonable amount of time to get dog examined by a vet; we gave her 48 hours."
Two days later, on Thursday, animal control officers with a search warrant for the dog noticed the dog was not in the yard. The owner had earlier told police her dog had been taken, officials said.
The dog was "presumably taken from its yard" between the time the notice was given and the deadline, officials said.
"If this dog was truly stolen from its yard, the person or persons who did this have now impeded our investigation," Animal Services Director Robert Miller said. "We were just about to seize this animal, if it had not been seen properly by a veterinarian, and now we have lost the chain of custody. This is a serious issue."
Riverside County Animal Services has responded to the same property about a dozen times over the last three years, officials said. Four dogs have been impounded from the property, and 15 citations have been issued to the owner for reasons including leash law and kennel violations.
"Someone has acted in the spirit of helping this dog, but when someone thinks with their heart instead of their head, they are doing more harm than good," Miller said. "The person who has this dog now needs to do the right thing. Return the dog, or let us know where the dog is located so we can re-establish a chain of custody."
Miller said that the dog can be surrendered to Riverside County Animal Services without punishment. The person can use one of the night-drop compartments at the county’s main shelter at 6851 Van Buren Blvd., within the city of Jurupa Valley, or provide a location for the dog.