Man arrested after alleged animal abuse photo circulates on social media

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The case has a couple of law enforcement agencies at odds and a dog owner caught in the middle. (KFSN)

A misdemeanor animal abuse investigation has ended in a felony arrest after witnesses posted pictures of a dog tied up in the back of a pick up truck outside a pet store in Northwest Fresno. The question Fresno Police have is whether this was bad judgment or a crime. The suspect is now in jail after a Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy determined this is a felony case of neglect.

"It's against the law what was happening here at the PetSmart. You should have took responsibility and took it right to a veterinarian," Daniel Bailey, Animal Control Services.

Animal Control services officials say Refugio Alvarez should never have even gone to a pet store Thursday to try to get shampoo to clean and treat his dog for ticks.

"If my child or something with my child is ill, I'm not going to worry about how clean my child is, I'm going to get it down to the emergency room as soon as possible," said Bailey.

Concerned witnesses took several pictures of Alvarez's three year old dog, named McQueen, tied up and hanging in the back of a pick up truck. "He is a beautiful German Shepherd and he didn't have any fire in him at all," said a witness who did not want to be indentified.

The photos were posted on Facebook and immediately the dog's owner, who was in his company truck at the time, began getting threats. Alvarez only speaks Spanish. But his wife said he didn't take the dog into PetSmart because he was sick and has ticks. The couple says he was restrained so he wouldn't run away.

"When he tied him in the back of the truck, he made sure that he didn't leave the leash too long because he has jumped out of the truck before," said the suspect's wife.

The Alvarez family says the dog was standing when it was tied, but wanted to lie down- which is why it appears to be hanging. Fresno Police are investigating how long the dog was left restrained in the heat and any other circumstances surrounding the incident.

"This is one of those cases -- it's a borderline situation, you know. From what I see at most, it would be a misdemeanor animal abuse, if that," said Joe Gomez, Fresno Police Department.

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Friday afternoon, a Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy showed up at the suspect's business to ask questions about the PetSmart incident. She ended up arresting Alvarez on one felony count of animal neglect based on the tick infestation.

Deputy: "So how many does he have?"

Suspect's wife: "How many what?"

Deputy: "Ticks."

Suspect's wife: "Oh I don't know."

Deputy: "Is he covered? Is it just on his ears and toes?"

The deputy told Alvarez since his dog had anemia, it must have had a severe problem that was left untreated for several weeks.

Refugio Alvarez says he loves his dog and was trying to help it. He did take the dog to the vet Friday morning, and it received a blood transfusion. He remains in the Fresno County Jail.
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