An arrest has been made in the case of a young pit bull who was badly burned by fireworks last Fourth of July, weeks after the pup was adopted by one of the veterinarians who helped him make an “unbelievable” recovery, police announced Friday.
Carlos Duarte, 41, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of animal cruelty, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. His bail was set at $30,000 and the case has been presented to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, LAPD said.
The arrest comes seven months after someone found a pup abandoned in a Van Nuys alley, suffering from third-degree burns over half his body, including on his stomach, legs and paws.
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Doctors believe the dog was strapped with fireworks and lit ablaze.
A man was captured by surveillance cameras yanking the severely injured pup from the bed of his white pick-up truck on July 5, 2013, and leaving it to die near a garbage can.
A still image of the distinct-looking truck was publicized and police said tips from the public helped them find the pick-up, which eventually led them to Duarte.
Nicknamed Indy because he was rescued during the Independence Day holiday, the roughly 3-year-old pit bull captured the hearts of many across the Southland, with supporters donating to his lengthy recovery.
Someone found Indy in the alley last summer and brought him home for the night. But Indy’s injuries were so bad, they took the pup to a shelter.
Indy was brought to the Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team (S.T.A.R.T.) a shy, timid pup who stepped gingerly around his kennel.
He was soon transferred to the Westlake Village Animal Hospital, where he underwent at least four surgeries and skin grafts, some performed by a well-known surgeon who typically operates on humans, Dr. Richard Grossman.
Six months of recovery and therapy later, Indy – called a “ladies man” by rescuers – found his "fur-ever" home and is being trained to be a therapy dog.
The co-founder of S.T.A.R.T. Rescue told NBC4 they are "eternally grateful to the LAPD for their diligence in pursuing the perpetrator who set Indy on fire"
"It was a gratuitous and incomprehensible act of cruelty. We received over 20,000 emails and letters from all over the world, supporting Indy and the apprehension of the criminal who did this heinous act," Rene Ruston said. "I cannot convey in words, the pain and agony this dog suffered over the 6 months of rehabilitation he endured. NO ONE should be subjected to this kind of cruelty."
Last month, NBC4’s cameras were there for Indy’s emotional home-going.
“Oh my gosh. This is a little more emotional than I planned. This is awesome,” Jenny Mandel, a veterinary technician at Westlake Village Animal Hospital and Indy’s new mom, said as she signed the adoption papers.
Mandel wasn’t working at the hospital when Indy was first brought in, but he soon became part of her daily routine. She’d see him every morning when she came to work.
“You can’t not love a dog like that so every day it was just more love, more love, and then finally he became a momma’s boy. I became a doggy’s girl,” Mandel said.
S.T.A.R.T. offered a $15,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of whoever hurt Indy. Ruston said that money will go to the person who led LAPD to the white pick-up truck.
Indy’s new owner said that while none of his injuries were internal, the pup has developed some “nuances” that betray his past ordeal, like an occasional limp and the tendency to get physically tired faster than other dogs his age and breed.
And as for Indy’s future, Mandel summed it up simply: “Lots of love, kisses – that’s the expectation for the rest of his life.”