Donation from 'Columbo' widow pushes PETA's sea lion reward to $10,000

Donation from 'Columbo' widow pushes PETA's sea lion reward to $10,000
A rescued sea lion pup in February at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities say there are still no signs of a sea lion kidnapped nearly two weeks ago from Dockweiler State Beach.

And they may never know if the pup is safe or if its captors already dropped it off at a local beach because there is no way to identify it, said Jim Milbury, West Coast spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.


If the pup's captors took it home, however, its chances of survival are quickly dwindling. The kidnappers likely aren't knowledgeable nor equipped to properly care for the starving pup.

"The prognosis will not be good at all," Milbury said.

While the Los Angeles Police Department and NOAA investigators continue to look for the pup, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has doubled its $5,000 reward to $10,000.

The additional funding came from Shera Danese, the widow of "Columbo" star Peter Falk, according to PETA. Falk was a longtime PETA supporter.

The late actor's wife was "deeply upset over the theft" of the pup, PETA said.

A witness who was collecting recyclables told police a woman wrapped the baby sea lion in a comforter April 19 about 3 a.m. at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, placed it in the trunk of a dark-colored Honda Civic and drove off.

Before that, two men and two women were seen taunting, throwing trash and a concrete block at a pair of pups at the beach, LAPD officials said.

After the pup was taken, the Honda Civic was seen heading south on Vista del Mar, police said. The license plate number, according to the witness, ends with the numbers 56.

The second pup was unharmed and found hiding in the bushes near a bike path.

Federal law prohibits the harassment, hunting, capture or killing of sea lions. The criminal penalty for hurting a pup is up to $100,000 in fines and/or a year in jail, according to the NOAA.

PETA is hoping the reward will lead to the pup's whereabouts, as well as the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for stealing it.

"Someone knows who was out on the beach that night, who stole the pup, and who drove away, separating this vulnerable baby from his or her mother and the sea," PETA Senior Director Martin Mersereau said in a statement.

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