A collar may have saved the life of a pit bull that was stabbed multiple times and needed over 1,000 stitches, a volunteer said several days after an altercation that police indicated Monday may have been a case of "self-defense" rather than "animal cruelty."
Spartacus, a 2-year-old pit bull, was repeatedly stabbed and hit over the head with a shovel near his owner's home in the Hyde Park area of South Los Angeles early Saturday morning.
The dog’s owner, a woman who asked not to be identified by name, said a neighbor who admitted to injuring Spartacus had threatened the animal in the past.
"'If I catch your dog, I’m going to kill him.' That’s what he said," she told KTLA in an interview. "And he tried to make good of his word."
The woman said she was at work when she received a call from a witness who informed her that "this man is out here stabbing Sparky" in front of her home, near the intersection of 10th and Florence avenues (map).
A thick collar that Spartacus was wearing at the time of the attack stopped knife from cutting further into his neck and may have saved his life, according to Alison Featherstone, the volunteer who picked up Spartacus.
The incident was reported to police, while the nonprofit organization Ghetto Rescue FFoundation took Spartacus to Pet Care Veterinary Center, where a representative said he underwent surgery and received more than 1,000 stitches.
“It almost looks like they tried to cut his head off -- it’s ear-to-ear,” Pet Care Veterinary Center Office Manager Alex Kyrklund said. “He ... almost looks like an autopsy victim.”
A man who identified himself only as “Rick” said he simply defended himself and his own dog when they were attacked by Spartacus.
“I’m hitting this dog, kicking this dog. The blade didn’t stop him but the shovel did,” he said.
Asked if he regretted the amount of force he used in the incident, Rick said: “Oh, I do have regrets. I don’t want to hurt nobody.”
Police on Monday evening cautioned that initial witness statements indicated that the case was one of "self-defense" and not of "animal cruelty."
"We understand that animals who are pictured with severe wounds can be very compelling and it is easy to make assumptions about their injuries," Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement. " However, in this particular case, our animal cruelty experts believe that the investigation is revealing this is a case of self-defense by a person faced with a dog who was at-large and in attack mode."
Spartacus did not sustain internal injuries or broken bones during the attack and continued to be “the sweetest dog in the world,” said Kyrklund, who worked at the clinic that treated Spartacus.
“This is a breed that terrifies people, but this breed, this particular dog, sat there and did not attack this person. It’s not the breed to be afraid of, it’s the people,” Kyrklund said. “Somebody tried to kill this dog and sliced this poor baby up. He’s sliced up like you wouldn’t believe.”
The Los Angeles Police Department's Animal Cruelty Unit was investigating the incident.
In his statement sent out at 5 p.m. Monday, Neiman cautioned media outlets about the story.
"Initial reports of this case being an animal cruelty issue are not proving to be accurate based upon the investigators' findings at this point," Neiman said.