Owners of sick dog doing what’s being asked to make her better

DENVER -- Denver Animal Protection officers are investigating a case of a dog neighbors fear is starving, sick and near death.

The case of Estrella, the emaciated 10-year old American boxer, engaged viewers, but the FOX31 Problems Solvers found out authorities are doing all they can to ensure the animal is getting care.

The Denver Animal Shelter said every week it sees dogs and cats dropped off and abandoned by owners who can’t afford to feed them or get them medical care. Cases of neglect, they say, are all too common.

But in the case of Estrella, officers said her owners are doing everything that's being asked.

Estrella's bones can be seen. She has sores on her legs and an infection in her eye.

“One being extremely emaciated, nine being overly obese. And you look at this dog, without getting hands on it, probably 1.5 out of nine,” said Denver Animal Protection investigator Daniel Ettinger.

Despite public concern, Estrella remains in the hands of her owners.

“We will do what's right in this situation and and we have to allow the dog owner to do what's right and so far they are,” Ettinger said.

Officers said not every case warrants the animal in question to be immediately taken.

“We want to ensure that the animal is being seen by the vet, the condition is not getting worse, that it's getting better. We want to monitor that over time,” Ettinger said.

From a legal standpoint, attorneys with the Animal Law Center said the owners have a right to step up first.

“We’re not into wanting to see an animal mistreated or neglected or really anyone that's not caring for their animal properly. A lot of times it's education,” said Jay Swearingen, an attorney with the Animal Law Center.

Colorado law considers animals property, which means taking them without a warrant constitutes theft.

“What animal control did is based on their experience, based on the facts of the situation,” Swearingen said.

Now its Estrella’s owners who must prove they are continuing to provide the dog with the care she needs.

“This is someone’s family member, no matter how you look at it,” Ettinger said.

The Animal Law Center said veterinarians are mandatory reporters but do not have the authority to impound or take an animal they feel is being neglected.

Animal protection investigators said this is not the worst case they’ve seen, but they are going to continue to monitor Estrella and her owners to make sure she’s getting better.