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Latte and Swag, Maltese mix & Chihuahua, killed by predatory animal, not shot to death

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Update: It was a terrible story -- a report that two small dogs, named Latte and Swag, were found dead on Sunday morning, apparently after having been shot to death by a BB gun or small caliber weapon. But appearances can be deceiving. After the Denver Police Department offered a $2,000 reward for the shooters, tests proved the dogs hadn't been shot at all.

Our post about the case stirred plenty of debate from readers, with a number focusing on a past noise complaint, albeit dating back to 2005. In a Comment of the Day post, one person made the point that while shooting the dogs was wrong, the owner needed to take some responsibility if their barking had been out of control.

That wasn't the case, however. According to the DPD, a necropsy performed on the dogs showed that they'd actually been killed by a "predatory animal."

We've left a message for Doug Kelley, director of Denver Animal Care and Control, with whom we previously spoke about the case. When and if he responds, we'll offer another update.

Update, 7:09 a.m. November 17: Heard back from Denver Animal Care and Control's Doug Kelley, who confirms that the two dogs were killed by a predatory animal. "At this point," he says, "the investigation is over, because they were able to prove that the animals were not shot."

Look below for our previous coverage.

Original item, 11:35 a.m. November 14: Yesterday morning, Cristina Amaro opened the backdoor for her two beloved dogs, a Maltese mix named Latte and a Chihuahua dubbed Swag. But when she called for them a while later, they didn't return -- because they'd been killed.

Doug Kelley, director of Denver Animal Care and Control, provides more details.

The owner "let the dogs out around 6:30 a.m.," Kelley says. "Then, when the dogs didn't come at eight o'clock, she went into her backyard and found them dead."

At this point, the cause of death is unclear. Blood was found on the dogs, Kelley notes, "and the officer who picked them up found what very well could be an entry wound," leading to the suspicion that they were shot with a small caliber weapon of some sort. "There are some really powerful BB guns out there now, and air guns, and .22s," he continues, "so it's hard to tell -- and these are small dogs."

To determine a cause of death, a necropsy will be conducted, probably at the Colorado State University diagnostic lab. At this writing, the dogs remain at the Denver shelter, because relatives of Amaro were traveling from Texas today in order to view the bodies. "They need closure," Kelley says. Either this afternoon or tomorrow, they'll be transported to the CSU facility, with a report expected "pretty quickly," he estimates.

Thus far, there are no suspects in the case and only guesses as to a motive. "There was a barking dog complaint against them, but it was back in 2005," Kelley says. "And I don't even know if we went out there. For a first complaint, we typically respond with a letter." Moreover, Amaro's home "doesn't face a street or anything like that," making questions of access key.

Cases of animal cruelty like this one are fairly rare in Denver; Kelley says instances of owner neglect are far more common than attacks on dogs by others. If it can be shown the dogs were shot to death, however, the crime would be considered a class-six felony for a first offense, a class-five felony it the shooter had a previous record. "We take this kind of thing very seriously," Kelley says.

Look below to see Fox31's coverage of the story.


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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Matthew Weatherspoon sentenced to 30-months probation for slashing bulldog puppy in face."

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