Agencies deny they bungled investigation of dog's death

King County animal-control officers and Federal Way police — who have been slammed with angry e-mail and phone calls claiming they've done nothing to catch the person who doused a puppy with acid — insist they are working hard to solve the animal-cruelty case.

"It is horrific and it is heart-wrenching, and if there is a case to be made, we want to make it," said Federal Way Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. But animal-rights activists say the two agencies have passed the buck between each other, have not done enough and have destroyed irreplaceable evidence by cremating the dog after it was euthanized.

Mooie, a 4-month-old female pit bull, was found critically injured in the fenced yard of a Federal Way woman March 10.

"The woman looked through her window and saw her granddaughter trying to play with the puppy and she thought that the puppy had been hit by a car and dragged," said Larry Brothers, an investigator with Pasado's Safe Haven, a nonprofit animal-rescue organization.

A friend of the Federal Way woman took the puppy to Valley Animal Hospital of Auburn, where it was determined that the puppy had likely been dipped in a caustic material such as acid that ate through more than 90 percent of her skin.

The caustic material that burned the puppy was so strong it caused workers in the veterinarian's office to become ill.

The woman who took the dog to the animal hospital also called 911.

The dog was euthanized after veterinarians determined there was no way to save her.

Veterinarian Ivy Engstrom called the injury "one of the worst things" she had seen.

She eventually contacted Pasado's because she believed that neither the police nor King County Animal Services and Programs were taking the case seriously enough.

Engstrom and Pasado's officials said they were later infuriated when it appeared that Federal Way police and King County Animal Services each thought the other agency was responsible for investigating the incident.

Federal Way police said Monday the incident initially was investigated by an Animal Services officer. But an Animal Services official said Federal Way officers wrote the initial report on the incident.

Federal Way police said animal-cruelty cases must be investigated by animal services. Animal Services officials, however, said police have the right to investigate any crime that occurs in their jurisdiction.

Animal Services authorized the cremation, an act that also angered animal activists.

"They didn't take tissue samples even though animal cruelty is a class C felony," said Brothers, the Pasado's investigator. "Now there is no way to determine what kind of caustic material scalded the puppy. They've blown it."

Al Dams, assistant manager for King County Animal Services, said his agency has preserved all the evidence that will be needed to prove the puppy suffered inhumane treatment.

"To say that we don't care about animal cruelty because we authorized cremation is completely unfair," Dams said.

"We have photographs that make obvious the pain and the suffering. We have witness statements. We have the dog's collar."

Dams and police said that the dog's owner is being questioned by Animal Services and that the case is being investigated aggressively. The dog's owner lives near the home where the dog was found.

More than $15,000 has been offered as a reward to anyone with information leading to a cruelty conviction.

Pasado's Safe Haven has been receiving more than 80,000 hits an hour on its Web site since posting photos of the puppy, according to co-founder Susan Michaels.

Police and Animal Services said they've been bombarded with e-mail criticizing their response.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or