In his 13 years as an investigator for the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sgt. Dave W. Havard has had his share of weird incidents.
But Havard, 37, believes that he is now faced with his most bizarre case. Not only is Havard attempting to discover who is responsible but why.
The case involves three dog carcasses that were found dumped in two separate locations in Lakewood. All of the dogs were skinned.
There were other similarities which leads Havard to believe the grotesque acts were committed by the same person or persons: All the dogs were found in green, plastic trash bags; the skinnings appeared to be professionally done, with no tears or gouges on the carcasses; fur was left on the paws; all dogs were large, perhaps Afghans or some type of mixed breed.
Dumped Next to Trash Cans
The carcasses were all dumped next to trash cans rather than in them, leading Havard to surmise, "Whoever did this wanted these animals to be discovered."
"I've had wild animals, like deer, skinned for their pelts, but never domestic animals," said Havard, a state humane officer who is trained, licensed and authorized by the state to investigate and make arrests.
The first bag with one animal in it was found in an alley behind a supermarket near Woodruff Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard in early December. The animal's jaw had been broken.
Second Bag Found 3 Weeks Later
"This was the first such finding and the animal control officers merely picked the dog up," Havard said. However, three weeks later a second bag, which contained two dogs, was found in the 5500 block of Del Amo Boulevard next to a fast food restaurant's dumpster. The second finding is less than a mile west of the first location.
A patrol unit from the Lakewood station of the county Sheriff's Department as well as a regular animal control officer responded to the call. The investigation was turned over to Havard and his eight-person investigative department with its main office in Los Angeles.
The department has the power to conduct statewide investigations but concentrates in Southern California, Havard said. In addition, Lakewood is one of five Southeast cities that contracts with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to provide animal services, including animal shelters, licensing and investigation.
None of the skinned dogs in Lakewood had been drained of blood, leading Havard to conclude that Satanic cults were probably not involved.
"There are certain signs when these cults are involved. The head of the animal is usually missing. They are usually found hanging up and drained of blood," Havard said.
Case Remains Baffling
So far, the case remains baffling. The investigation has not turned up any witnesses.
The officers are doing the same thing a police department would do, Havard said.
"We're on the lookout for people reporting their animals stolen.
"We're asking our animal control officers in the field to keep alert. Be observant. To keep checking and rechecking the area to see if anything turns up," Havard said.
Meanwhile, the three animals are awaiting necropsies or examinations to determine how they were killed.
It is a misdemeanor to kill a dog or cat with the intent of selling or giving away the pelt. The maximum sentence is six months in county jail or a $1,000 fine or both.