LAPD investigation of pit bull death continues, as rescue group threatens lawsuit

by in News

Officials with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Task Force say they are continuing their investigation into what led to the death of a pit bull and reports that she was a victim of animal abuse and sexual assault.

“We are still verifying the facts,” said Det. Al Erkelens, lead investigator on the task force. “We’re saying we cannot verify some of the allegations, but we’re not done.”

Erkelens and his team of three investigators are trying to determine what happened to Valerie, a five-year-old pit bull found dying in a South Los Angeles neighborhood Aug. 6. The dog had a microchip showing she had been adopted from the Tustin-based OC Animal Care shelter in July.

As the investigation broadens so, too, do complaints directed at the LAPD by Ghetto Rescue, the group that came to the dog’s aid.

The Anaheim Hills-based rescue group has threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the police department for information the agency presented in a press release issued Friday, Aug. 17. In the release, the LAPD questioned some of the rescue group’s allegations, including those of the pit bull’s sexual assault and abuse.

Ghetto Rescue, founded by Tami Baumann, an LAPD police sergeant, also had insisted LAPD take the press release off of the LAPD website by noon, Monday, Aug. 19. The press release remains posted, and  Erkelens said Tuesday that his department stands by its statement.

Ghetto Rescue reported in Facebook posts Aug. 7 that information relayed to the group by a veterinary technician at the Pet Care Center on West Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles, revealed the pit bull had suffered vaginal trauma.

The group reiterated the allegation in a statement issued Monday, Aug. 20 by its attorney, Jill Ryther.

“Tami was advised by an extremely experienced veterinary technician that (Valerie’s) vagina was extremely swollen and painful to touch, causing her to scream,” the statement says. “The veterinary technician advised Tami that she was very concerned that the dog had been abused. Tami requested a vaginal swab and advised the veterinary staff to keep it for detectives.”

In the LAPD release, the department said its forensic veterinarian found no evidence of sexual assault.

“The dog was recently spayed, possibly in heat, and had several litters, which may have accounted for the vet technician’s observation,” the statement said.

However, Erkelens said the forensic veterinarian’s observation was on physical examination only. He confirmed that his investigators had obtained a vaginal swab and were awaiting results.

Other areas of disagreement between LAPD and Ghetto Rescue involve personal information given to the Orange County shelter by Valerie’s adopter; accounts of how she was dumped in the South Los Angeles neighborhood; and the cause of her death.