MCSO searching for owners of 40 rescued dogs

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is trying to find the owners of 40 dogs seized in a Laveen neglect case.

Deputies rescued the animals from a property near 79th Avenue and Baseline Road on Oct. 28 after they were found to be sick, injured and without proper care.

According to the sheriff's office, Luis Garcia claimed he found the animals in washes when they attacked his horses, but investigators believe the dogs may have been stolen and used in a dog fighting or breeding operation.

Garcia, who rents the Laveen property, allegedly failed to provide the dogs with proper shelter and food, indicating that he fed them leftover pizza scraps.

Garcia was arrested and charged with 40 counts of animal abuse. MCSO says more charges are pending. He remained in custody Wednesday night.

"Someone has to look out for our animals," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said at a press conference. "I happen to be the sheriff. I have the authority and I have the right to make what I feel is priority. And to me, it's always been to go after those who abuse animals and throw them in jail."

Just in the last two days, more than 60 people have called the sheriff's office from as far away as Canada claiming to be the rightful owners. They said their dogs were lost or stolen, some of them years ago.

According to MCSO, none of the dogs is microchipped.

MCSO is not allowing anyone to see the dogs because they all have tick fever and worms, requiring a 30-day quarantine period.

"Callers are frustrated, some are desperate," Arpaio said in a statement. "I understand that, but we have a responsibility to try to get these animals back to their rightful owners, if there ever was one."

Arpaio is hoping to accomplish that through TV news coverage and social media.

Photos of all 40 dogs were posted on the sheriff's Facebook page and website Wednesday.

The sheriff's office is not providing any information about the dogs and is instead requiring possible owners to fill out an email form. The form asks about the dog's sex, breed, distinguishing characteristics and where it was last seen. If the information matches, that person will be invited to see the animal.

"We'll do anything we can to make sure these dogs are returned to their rightful owner," Arpaio said.

Any dogs who are not claimed will be available for adoption at a Dec. 15 event.

They are being held in the sheriff's MASH Unit, an air conditioned facility which onced house inmates as the First Avenue Jail. It was converted in 1998 to be a no-kill shelter for animals seized during abuse and neglect investigations. According to MCSO, 108 dogs and cats are currently at the facility.

If you think one of the dogs might be yours, visit www.mcso.org.

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