Authorities: Dog reported dead by owner found alive but infested with maggots, ‘severely neglected’

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – An animal cruelty investigation is underway after a "severely neglected" dog was found infested with maggots, officials in Riverside, California said Wednesday.

The dog's owner initially contacted the Riverside County Department of Animal Services on Monday afternoon to have them retrieve his "dead" 8-year-old Lhasa Apso, according to KTLA. But, when officers arrived, they discovered the dog wasn't deceased - she was alive, hiding under a bush against the house, but suffering from severe neglect, according to a news release from Animal Services.

The dog's coat was completely matted, including some parts that were several inches thick. (Credit: Riverside County Department of Animal Services)

The dog's coat was completely matted, including some parts that were several inches thick. (Credit: Riverside County Department of Animal Services)

The owner later explained to Animal Control Officers Joh Hergenreder that his pet didn't want to eat and was “acting funny," the release stated. When pressed about the last time she was groomed, the owner responded "about a year."

Hergenreder took the canine to Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter where she was immediately examined, given pain medication and treated by veterinarians.

As part of the examination, they cut away the dog's matted coat - which took about an hour due to some parts being several inches thick - and discovered she had maggots in her rear end.

“This is where the dog’s skin was moist and enflamed – and the infection of her skin provided an environment in which maggots thrive,” said Dr. Sara Strongin, a staff veterinarian, in the release. “The skin infection affected the entire hind end of the dog.”

On Wednesday morning, veterinary technicians sedated the dog so they could attend to the dog's legs and paws, the most difficult part of grooming the matted coat.

An Animal Services photo shows the canine after her fur was shaved off.

An Animal Services photo shows the canine after her fur was shaved off.

“This is where the coat was so tightly adhered to the skin,” Strongin said. “It took them almost an hour to finish that task because the matted coat covered all surfaces along the entire length of all four legs, including the paws.”

They eventually fully shaved the dog and treated her skin irritations. An injection helped ease her pain and discomfort, according to officials.

“This dog suffered in this condition, and it’s just terrible to allow a breed of this type to go this long without properly grooming,” said Sgt. Dylan Gates.

As part of proper pet ownership, dogs should be professionally groomed every six to eight weeks, the release noted.

“Grooming a Lhasa Apso is not just for looks," Gates said. "It is imperative to get the grooming done regularly to ensure the dog’s health, too."

Authorities are investigating the incident as a case of animal cruelty and will likely submit it to the Riverside County District Attorney, authorities said.

The owner has relinquished the dog to Animal Services; she will eventually be put up for adoption or transferred to a rescue group partner organization.