Community outcry after NBC4 first reported a story about a golden retriever in Lancaster found with chemical burns along its spine has led to more cases now being investigated as criminal and rewards being offered.
Officials at the Lancaster Animal Shelter in the Antelope Valley said a total of four dogs — including the upbeat golden retriever named Fergus — have come through the shelter in the last 30 days with severe burns, likely from some kind of chemical or acid.
Two pit bulls, both discovered in city of Palmdale, had to be put down because their burns were so severe, officials said. A third pit bull, a female found in Lancaster, is recovering at the shelter.
Fergus the golden retriever is recovering at the West LA Animal Medical Center after a good Samaritan found him outside a Lancaster Walmart and took him to a shelter, where a rescue group found him. He is still wagging his tail and smiling despite how severely he was hurt.
"It's evil," said Barbara Gale of the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue group
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Lancaster animal authorities believe the incidents are isolated.
“We don’t have a reason to believe this is a trend in the Antelope Valley,” said Lt. Raul Rodriguez at the Lancaster Shelter. “It just so happened that it happened within the last 30 days.”
An NBC4 viewer said she is offering a $2,000 reward to find who is responsible. Colleen O'Brien of PETA said the organization is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The LA County Department of Animal Care and Control has a special team investigating the cases. Gang involvement was a possibility, officials said.
“We are getting concrete information as to what happened to two of the four dogs, who were not strays," the department said in a statement. "As far as we know at this time none of the four recent attacks appear to be linked to the same person."
The Major Case Unit wouldn’t reveal details of the case, only to say they are interviewing witnesses and possible owners of the dogs involved.
“It breaks your heart,” Gale said Tuesday. “What did dogs ever do to anyone except bring love and joy? That’s what they’re on earth for.”
The team is investigating three of the four cases, and one case is believed to have come from Kern County, where investigators there are looking into a cause, officials said.
The pit bull at the Lancaster Shelter remains in the shelter’s clinic. Staff members said it will be up for adoption soon, and they’re hoping someone from the community or a pit bull rescue group will give her a home.
For more information, contact the Lancaster Shelter at 661-940-4191.
NBC4 has also learned the San Bernardino Shelter in Devore is looking into a possible burn case with a pit bull dropped off July 13. A shelter worker said they have so far been unable to confirm the cause of that dog’s injuries.
Residents of the Lancaster area say similar attacks on dogs have happened in years past.
Three years ago, Jaime Miele' dog had some type of caustic chemical, possibly battery acid, poured across its back. The memories returned to her when she saw Fergus on the news.
"I was shocked that another dog from Lancaster had had the same exact fate," Miele said. "It's the same area and it's the same shelter that keeps finding these dogs."
In 2014, a dog named Sebastian was doused in motor oil and another named Sox had acid thrown into his eyes.