Anaheim-based Ghetto Rescue Ffoundation (GRFF) is threatening a lawsuit if the Los Angeles Police Department doesn’t retract a statement blaming the animal rescue group for false information about a dead adopted pit bull.
LAPD denied reports a pit bull rescued at a free adoption event in Orange County was sexually abused and killed, and, in a Thursday statement, attributed the misinformation to GRFF.
GRFF attorney Jill Ryther of the Ryther Law Group sent a letter Friday to LAPD’s animal cruelty task force, which investigated the pit bull’s death, calling the LAPD statement “inflammatory” and “untrue.”
“There is very little in the LAPD press release that is portrayed correctly,” said Ryther in a phone interview. “There is zero legitimacy to those claims.”
LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera said in an email the department stands behind the statement.
“If the rescue group, attorney representing that organization or anyone has any information or evidence about the incident or knows witnesses who have not been contacted, they are encouraged to connect with detectives handling the case,” Herrera said.
Ryther said the group is “absolutely” willing to file a lawsuit against the department if the statement is not retracted by 12:00 p.m. Monday, but that they want to meet with LAPD to come up with a joint statement to clear up facts.
“We’re giving them a chance to make it right,” Ryther said.
Ryther could not be reached for follow-up questions as of Friday evening to clarify exactly what parts of the statement Ryther wants retracted.
On August 7, GRFF announced the death of a 5-year-old adopted pit bull known as both Cargo and Valerie. The group found the dog dying in South Los Angeles and said in a Facebook post the dog had vaginal trauma and a ruptured aorta, which led to news reports that the dog had been sexually abused and left to die.
The story also led to criticism over Orange County’s free to low-cost adoption policies for making it easier for people with malicious intent to adopt.
Animal advocates planned to protest Saturday at OC Animal Care’s free adoption event at the Tustin shelter.
The dog’s death and strong internet reaction prompted an investigation by the LAPD’s animal cruelty task force, which made their findings public in the Thursday statement.
“‘Cargo’ was not adopted from OC Animal Care for malicious reasons; ‘Cargo’ was not sexually assaulted and then thrown from a vehicle by two male Blacks. Due to events beyond the owner’s control, the dog was placed in a home on a temporary basis. 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,” the statement says.
The LAPD statement said the observation of the dog’s vaginal trauma was reported to GRFF by a “Vet Technician only” from the vet clinic that first treated the dog, and that the observation was not supported by the treating veterinarian or the forensic veterinarian.
According to the manager of that vet clinic, the vet technician only stabilized the dog and called a veterinarian to perform an autopsy when it died. It was the veterinarian’s observation, according to the manager, that the cause of death was blunt force trauma after finding an aortic tear and a large amount of blood in the dog’s chest.
After the autopsy, LAPD acquired the dog’s body with a court order and performed its own autopsy, according to the manager. The vet clinic autopsy results were also given to LAPD.
LAPD said in the Thursday statement the dog’s cause of death is unknown and still is being investigated.
In the statement, LAPD said the observation of vaginal trauma might be due to the fact “the dog was recently spayed, possibly in heat, and had several litters.”
LAPD did not clarify Friday evening whether the dog was spayed while it was in heat, or if the dog somehow went into heat after being spayed.
Dogs cannot go into heat after being spayed, according to the vet clinic manager.
GRFF was established by Tami Baumann, an LAPD sergeant, according to CBS Los Angeles. Ryther could not be reached for a follow-up phone interview to confirm this.
“The LAPD statement certainly seemed personal. Maybe Ghetto Rescue steps on their toes or makes them look bad,” said Ryther. “I’ve certainly heard complaints against LAPD in the past in regards to them not pursuing animal abuse cases.”
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @photherecord.