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Helen Woodward Animal Center offers reward in abandoned dog incident

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Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center
A still of the abandoned dog from a surveillance camera at the Companion Animal Hospital in Rancho Santa Fe, March 13, 2023.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center offered a $5,000 reward Tuesday to anyone who can identify a person who abandoned a dog outside the facility's closed Companion Animal Hospital on Monday night.

Security footage showed a man parking his car in the shopping plaza adjacent to the center and leading the dog down a path toward the center only to abandon it. The whereabouts of the dog are now unknown, and the Woodward Center is asking for help in locating the animal.

"In that time, the individual seems to wait to make sure that all employee vehicles have left the property and that no one will catch him abandoning the precious dog, who trustingly follows the man as he beckons the canine through the parking lot," a statement from the center reads.

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Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center
A still from a surveillance camera of a man suspected of abandoning a dog at the Companion Animal Hospital in Rancho Santa Fe, March 15, 2023.

The dog is wearing a harness but is left unleashed and uncrated with only a bed and a few toys. It can then be seen wandering the property until it disappears.

"The dog looks to be a brownish color, fluffy, and medium-sized," said Laura Smith, the Woodward Center employee who first viewed the security footage. "The gait of the dog makes it look a bit older, possibly a senior, but it's hard to tell."

It is illegal in San Diego for any individual to abandon an animal. In part, the law states, "No person shall abandon any domestic animal without care on any public or private property. Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor."

"I think the most distressing thing is how much the dog seems to trust the man who is getting ready to abandon it and how stunned it seems as this man drives off, leaving it behind," Smith said. "It just breaks my heart."


"We are assuming that the individual may have felt that leaving it near the animal hospital might give it a bit more of a chance of being found," Helen Woodward Animal Services director Kendall Schulz said. "But there isn't a good way to abandon an animal and leaving it uncrated is cruel and means that the dog was subjected to cars racing down the dark road and being attacked by coyotes that roam the area."

An employee from the center did report seeing the dog near the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Station on El Apajo Road at around 8:20 p.m. Efforts to catch the dog were unsuccessful and led to the dog fleeing the area.

The community is asked to contact the Woodward Center's adoption department with tips at (858) 756-4117, ext. 1, visit or stop by at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe.