Nine hungry puppies were abandoned inside a emptied dog food bag in a San Diego County park on Thursday, and authorities are offering a reward for information on whoever left them there.
The pups, estimated to be 10 to 14 weeks old, were found cold, dehydrated and covered in feces and urine inside a 50-pound Old Roy dog food bag at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, the San Diego Humane Society said in a news release.
The bag was sealed with red duct tape, though there were some air holes cut into it, according to Officer Serena Boney with the agency's law enforcement division.
"Had they been out there too long in the cold, they absolutely could have frozen to death," she said. "Who knows when they were last fed. They were all very hungry. They were trying to nurse on the towels that we were wiping them down with."
The young dogs appear to be Shar-Pei mixes, officials said.
A good Samaritan happened upon them and brought them in to the Humane Society, where staff gave them fluids, fed them and bathed them before transferring them to foster homes.
Boney said the incident is especially distressing because the puppies could have just as easily been dropped off at any Humane Society location.
"Our doors are open; we have officers on call 24/7," Boney said. "Anyone can reach out and say, 'Hey, I can't care for these puppies. They could have done the right thing and called us, but instead they chose to abandon them in a bag that was taped closed. So it's extremely frustrating and disappointing that they chose not to do the right thing."
The agency has now launched a felony cruelty investigation.
Officials are also hoping to find the pup's mother to ensure she's OK as well.
"Her puppies have disappeared," Boney said. "She could also be in need of medical care or assistance, so we want to make sure that we're there for the mother too if we can figure out who owns her a where she lives."
A $1,000 reward has been tied to information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information can contact the San Diego Humane Society at 619-299-7012, or submit a tip anonymously via 888-580-8477 or SDCrimeStoppers.org.