Dog left to rot in truck after animal control officer jailed

ARVIN, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A horrible smell and oozing blood led Arvin officials to the badly decomposing remains of a dog, apparently left for days in the city's Animal Control truck.

Their only Animal Control officer has been off work since being arrested on March 5. It's not clear how or when the animal was left in the truck behind City Hall.

"The Public Works employee reported that the blood was dripping from the vehicle onto the ground," Arvin Police Chief Louis Cobarruviaz said Friday morning. "And that's how it was first detected."

Another worker told Eyewitness News she had spotted "goo" dripping from both sides of the truck.

Animal Control Officer Tim Garza was last in the truck on March 5. The question is what happened between then and Thursday, and whether someone else or Garza put the animal in the truck.

"We don't know whether he picked it up before he was taken into custody," Chief Cobarruviaz said. "Or whether an officer, not knowing that he was not going to be available the next day, put a deceased animal in the vehicle."

Cobarruviaz said live animals are never left at city facilities, because Arvin doesn't have the resources for them. Any live or injured animals are taken to the Kern County Animal Control shelter in Bakersfield. The chief thinks this dog must have been dead before it was put in the truck.

Cobarruviaz said they've checked the animal control officer's logs but haven't tracked down what could have happened. They haven't been able to talk to Garza, yet, because he's been in jail since his arrest.

According to Kern County court website information, Garza is being held on $320,000 bail for seven felony charges. Those include inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, threatening with intent to terrorize, assault with a firearm, assault with great bodily injury, false imprisonment with violence, preventing a witness from reporting and rape by force or fear.

Cobarruviaz said Garza has been Arvin's Animal Control officer for about two years. They want to know more about the criminal case.

"We've initiated our own investigation regarding the allegations that are raised against the Animal Control officer to determine whether there's some action that should be taken against him," Cobarruviaz said, stressing Garza has not been convicted.

In the meantime, the city is looking into whether Kern County can help out with emergency animal control response. And they may try to find a retired animal control officer to fill in.

When the remains were discovered in the city's Animal Control truck, the police chief said it was hard to determine much about the dog.

"They had some difficulty taking it out of the place where it had been in the vehicle," Cobarruviaz said. By Friday afternoon, he said the dog was a Chihuahua.

The city workers had reported the smell at about the same time other city employees were planning to use the Animal Control truck to remove dead animal carcasses that had just been spotted, the chief said. The discovery of the dead dog leads to a lot of questions.

"We're investigating it and we're going to find out who did it." Cobarruviaz said, "and have a discussion with that person as to when it happened and exactly what happened."