Junior Alvarez’ pet dog, Beau, died Tuesday after spending the weekend inside Orange Cove’s animal shelter.
Alvarez said that when he finally saw Beau on Monday morning there was no food, water or bed in his kennel. He said his dog was sitting in urine and feces on a freezing concrete floor.
Sgt. Jose Puga from the Orange Cove Police Department said the Public Works Department is responsible for taking care of the animals over the weekend. Puga said they feed the dogs, keep the facility clean and provide beds for the dogs. He added there is video surveillance to prove it.
Orange Cove has a turbulent history with their ability to manage an animal control facility.
In 2014, the city manager at the time asked a group of volunteers helping at the animal shelter to incorporate and form a nonprofit organization. They were asked to do so because the city had received multiple complaints about the treatment of the dogs and the rate of dogs being put down. Friends of Orange Cove Animal Shelter (FOCAS) was formed that year.
The volunteers were able to relieve the city of the burden of feeding, caring and finding homes for the dogs. FOCAS volunteers ran the shelter and cared for the dogs, maintaining an almost 100% adoption rate.
But in 2018, Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez and city staff started the process of terminating FOCAS’ contract, first questioning their nonprofit status, then complaining that the group no longer turned in monthly reports. The last straw was when FOCAS’ volunteers complained about animal abuse by city workers after a dead dog was found in one of the city’s vehicles.
In October of 2019, the Orange Cove City Council voted to terminate FOCAS’ contract to run the animal shelter.
When the city took over, they indicated at the time they would euthanize dogs that overstay their hold. The city has kept their promise.
At the February 12 City Council meeting this year, Orange Cove Chief of Police Marty Rivera presented a short report on the city’s animal shelter. Rivera reported that for the month of January, animal control caught 22 dogs, out of which 9 were euthanized. The rest were returned to their owners.
‘Your Dog Looks Sick, Bro’
Puga said that a neighbor of Alvarez called animal control on December 11 to report a vicious dog.
When Rogelio Diaz, an animal control officer, arrived at the scene he recognized Beau and knew the dog was not vicious. Nevertheless, city ordinance states that dogs must be confined in their yard, so Diaz impounded Beau in the shelter and then left for an extended period.
Alvarez searched for Beau that Friday afternoon and into the evening; he later asked an Orange Cove officer, who confirmed that Beau was at the facility. Alvarez wouldn’t be able to pick up his dog until Monday morning
He attempted numerous times throughout the weekend to contact the city to retrieve his dog. His sister called and spoke to the sergeant who assured her that Beau was being fed and cared for. Alvarez and his sister asked if they could just see him to make sure he was OK but they were denied.
Alvarez waited at city hall on Monday morning to pay his fine then went straight to Animal Control at 9 a.m, when the facility is scheduled to open. The shelter was an hour late in opening and, once inside, he had to wait another hour for someone with the department to let him inside the kennels.
He claims that he was told by a public works employee that Diaz was on vacation and the animals had not been cared for over the weekend.
The public works employee then walked into the kennel and exclaimed, “Oh damn, your dog looks sick, bro,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez described the shelter as freezing and damp, and said he found his dog lethargic, sitting in puddles of urine and feces on the cold concrete. He took Beau outside and tried to warm him up and then rushed him to the veterinarian. His dog died the next day.
A smaller dog was “going crazy barking” Alvarez said when he retrieved Beau.
As they left the building, Alvarez claimed the public works employee locked the door and left the small dog alone.
Intent to hurt Beau?
Alvarez claims that Diaz intended to harm his dog, saying he is suspicious of the fact that Diaz placed his dog in the shelter and later took an extended leave, possibly knowing Beau would not be cared for.
His dog was picked up in front of his home and had city license tags; with those, Alvarez should have been called immediately, he said.
“That didn’t happen,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez also claimed Diaz was angry after an animal control incident last year in which he reached out to a superior officer. Beau was picked up by animal control, and Alvarez stated he talked to a higher-ranking officer about releasing his dog without a fine.
Puga stated that Orange Cove Animal Control had received multiple complaints about Alvarez’ dog, and that Beau had been picked up before. Alvarez acknowledged his dog had previously been held by animal control, stating that kids would open up the gate to play with the dog.
The fact that Beau had been picked up before, and that Animal Control knew the dog well, made Alvarez even more suspicious. Alvarez is also well-known, a popular employee of Citrus Middle School in Orange Cove.
Beau was only two years old and in good health. Beau and his owner live near the police department, and everyone knew the dog, according to Sheila Lindquist, a member of FOCAS.
“Beau was the neighborhood’s sweetheart,” she said. “If they are just going to kill animals, please close the shelter and allow Fresno County to take over.”