SALINAS -- A former Watsonville police dog has been seized by the SPCA for Monterey County and its owner, a former Watsonville police officer, is facing misdemeanor charges.
The severely emaciated and dehydrated dog, a German shepherd, belonged to former Watsonville officer Francisco Ibarra.
Ibarra was fired by the Watsonville Police Department in 2010 "for cause". Last week, Ibarra filed suit against the city.
Sgt. Stacy Sanders of the SPCA said an anonymous tip led them to Ibarra's Salinas home where they found Ingo, who weighed just 55 pounds, about 25 pounds less than a healthy 5-year-old German shepherd should weigh.
Ingo's hips and ribs were prominently showing and there was no food in the backyard.
Ibarra was given 24 hours to respond to the SPCA. When he did not, officers seized Ingo on Feb. 17. Within a day or two Ingo passed sand, dirt and grass, which he'd ingested.
"When dogs aren't fed in a timely manner, they will resort to eating grass and dirt and rocks and their own feces to keep themselves alive," Sanders said.
Ingo scored just a 1 on the canine body condition score chart. The canine body condition score chart goes from 1-5 with 1 being emaciated, 3 considered ideal and 5 being obese.
Other than being emaciated, Ingo has no other medical issues, Sanders said, which led SPCA officials to believe he'd been neglected.
"He is slowly recovering and gaining weight on a specialized diet on a prescribed feeding schedule," according to Beth Brookhouser of the SPCA.
Just one month later, Ingo has gained 15 pounds.
The case was forwarded to the District Attorney's Office, which has filed charges against Ibarra, Sanders said.
Terry Spitz, Monterey County's chief assistant district attorney, said Friday Ibarra was charged with two counts of misdemeanor failing to take care of an animal. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 18. The penalty, if he's convicted, is six months in County Jail and a $1,000 fine.
Ibarra was not arrested. He was cited and summoned to appear in court, Spitz said.
What will happen to Ingo remains uncertain. Sanders said their main concern is to nurse Ingo back to health. Then they will determine whether he is adoptable. She said there are several options, but that it will be awhile before those decisions are made.
"He is doing much better, doing great, getting attention every day," Sanders said. "He's enjoying life."
In spite of being a highly trained law enforcement dog, Sanders said Ingo will find a new home and a new life.
"We won't euthanize him," she said.
Ibarra, a 15-year veteran, was fired by the Watsonville Police Department in 2010.
Last year, the city's Personnel Commission found his termination unwarranted in December, and Ibarra, through his attorney, said he wanted his job back.
City Manager Carlos Palacios said Friday he did not reinstate Ibarra, but he declined to disclose why he disagreed with the Personnel Commission's recommendation, citing personnel confidentiality.
Ibarra filed a lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on March 16, naming each of the City Council members and Palacios as defendants.
Ibarra's attorney Kate Wells has said Ibarra wanted to "either return to his former position as an officer with the WPD, with, of course, back-pay and other lost benefits, or in the alternative to bring whatever legal action is necessary to accomplish his reinstatement."
Wells did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
The Watsonville Police Department fired Ibarra "for cause" but has never disclosed specific reasons.
Ibarra contends he was let go after he was elected president of the Watsonville Police Officers Association and acted to protect the rights of fellow officers.
He said the department used a March 2009 encounter with a suspect as a pretext to fire him. He said he did not, as alleged, inappropriately use force to capture the suspect. Rather when a man resisted arrest after a car stop, Ibarra called his K-9 partner, Ingo, for help. Ingo bit the man. Ibarra said he found stolen property in the car.
Police Chief Manny Solano said last year the firing came after "thorough and complete investigations of multiple incidents."
Follow Sentinel city editor Julie Copeland on Twitter @jcopeland--sc
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