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Dog Owners Speak After Arrest of Navy Veteran in Animal Cruelty Case

U.S. Navy veteran arrested in animal cruelty case in Oceanside

Oceanside dog owners, whose animals were tortured, kidnapped and even killed in one case, say they are afraid for the safety of their families now as well.

"If he could do that to a dog, what's to say he couldn't do that to me, to one of my kids," Michelle Plaketta said.

Plaketta and her family moved into the home on Carino Way, just south of Douglas Drive and east of Interstate 76, earlier this year with their two dogs.  

On May 30, they reported both their dogs missing from their home. A neighbor found one of the dogs. But the second, a Golden Retriever named Lala, never came home, Oceanside police said.

Her whereabouts are still unknown.

"Lala was a sweetheart...wouldn't hurt anybody. She wouldn't hurt a fly," Plaketta said.

Before Plaketta's move to the home on Carino Way, Maria Morales lived there with her family. She told NBC 7, her family's two huskies were mutilated inside the house.

She said it is a memory she and her family won't soon forget. After the assault, the family moved away.

On Wednesday, police arrested 46-year-old David Herbert after a months-long investigation.

"It's a bittersweet moment. We still don't know anything about Lala, but its justice needs to be served," Plaketta said.

Herbert, an honorably discharged and disabled U.S. Navy veteran, has been charged with violently abusing his neighbors' dogs over a period of six months, according to Oceanside police.

In response to Herbert's arrest, Morales' friend told NBC 7, they are relieved but worried for their dogs.

"Happy that we don't have to worry about anyone coming and finding our new residence but still emotional because the animals are still scarred for life," Elsa Gaytan said.

Plaketta had a similar response.

"It’s not going to be today or tomorrow, not a month from now. It's going to take a lot of time," Plaketta said.

Police removed several pieces of electronic equipment and clothes in the initial search of Herbert's house. But investigators said their strongest evidence is DNA matching that of Lala inside his car.

Herbert did not own or have animals at his home, police said.

He's expected to be arraigned Thursday.

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