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Police asking for information in dog shooting

Tampa police Detective Jeremy Larson walks the train tracks Thursday where a dog was shot and belted to the tracks Wednesday afternoon. Police have not named a suspect. The dog, named Cabela, is expected to survive.
Tampa police Detective Jeremy Larson walks the train tracks Thursday where a dog was shot and belted to the tracks Wednesday afternoon. Police have not named a suspect. The dog, named Cabela, is expected to survive.
Published Mar. 6, 2015

TAMPA — Blood still clings to a handful of rocks beneath the train tracks where Cabela was left for dead.

The pit bull mix was shot twice near the neck Wednesday and belted to tracks at the end of E Eskimo Drive before officers found her. Cabela, so named by the officers who rescued her, should survive, though she likely will lose a leg.

Tampa police, meanwhile, are asking the public for information.

"Whoever did this needs to go to jail," Officer Greg Coller said at a news conference Thursday in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood where the dog was attacked.

At least two organizations are putting up rewards. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is offering $2,500, and Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay says it will pay up to $3,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

Police received two calls Wednesday: The first reported shots fired, and the second mentioned the dog on the tracks, which officers found and then recovered after calling CSX to halt possible trains. Cabela, thought to be about 2 years old, was taken to the Tampa Bay Veterinary Emergency Service clinic in a police car.

"It just turns your stomach," Coller said. "(This behavior) just leads to bad things."

Before the news conference, John Sepulveda stood in the heat on his small front lawn with his two pit bulls — Leah and Macky, both 2 years old — a few houses away from the train tracks. They panted in the shade and gnawed on grass as their 52-year-old owner discussed the crime.

"It's sadistic," Sepulveda said. "Who would do that?"

Sepulveda said his neighborhood has a lot of stray dogs, which his pets sometimes play with. But he has never seen them get hurt before.

He said his street is friendly. Children play basketball at the end of the road after school most days, and take shortcuts behind houses and near the train tracks to hang out.

Those same children found Macky last week, after the dog got out when Sepulveda accidentally left his gate open.

"They brought him back," he said. "I thought this was a dog-friendly neighborhood. Almost every house here has a dog."

Across the street, Molina Migdalia agreed. She used to have a small chihuahua. But on Wednesday afternoon, the 37-year-old woman heard five or six gunshots.

"Quick," she said, describing the shots. She clapped her hands together.

"Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom," she said.

She remembers because her daughters were playing outside at the time, and she rushed all four inside.

Another neighbor, Rose Jones, said the incident disturbed her. The 74-year-old lives in an apartment at the end of the road, parallel to the tracks.

"If they shot a dog, what else are they going to do?" she asked.

Veterinarian Katy Meyer heads the clinic where Cabela was treated late Wednesday. She said the dog is doing okay for now but was expected to undergo surgery Thursday night.

"The way the leg was damaged, we're unfortunately leaning toward amputation," Meyer said. "It's shattered."

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Meyer said she expects Cabela's treatment will cost from $2,000 to $3,000, and her recovery will take about one to two weeks, barring complications.

After that, the clinic will begin the adoption process. Meyer said the Humane Society of Tampa Bay may assist, since Cabela's case attracted so much attention.

"I have no idea how we're going to handle that," she said, but added it will be addressed once the dog is medically stable.

The clinic has been inundated with donations. People called all day Thursday, a receptionist said. Tax-deductible gifts are being directed to the Veterinary Care Foundation, which is collecting online funds for Cabela's care. But others stopped by to leave money and items.

Selena Chiavatti, 33, drove almost two hours from Orlando on Thursday to drop off a plush pink bed, a bag full of toys, organic treats and a $50 check. Chiavatti said she saw the story on Facebook and was so bothered by it that she decided to make the trip.

"It's just a lot," she said, tearing up as she thought about it. "That dog is sitting there in terror and no one is coming. … It drives me crazy that people would do this."

Chiavatti does not own a dog, but said she has two children and "the biggest heart for animals."

"If you don't want the animal, just leave it at a vet or a shelter," she said. "I just hope someone adopts her."

The public is asked to call Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477 with any tips in the case.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400.

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