An Oceanside man has been found guilty of abusing his neighbors’ dogs, including gouging out the eye of a Siberian husky and harming a golden retriever who went missing.
A San Diego County jury on Friday found David C. Herbert guilty of 11 charges, including animal abuse and vandalism. Authorities said he repeatedly slashed his neighbor’s tires.
Prosecutors also alleged that Herbert had beaten the golden retriever, named Lala, with a bat, though he was not found guilty of that.
Lala is still missing. Authorities presume she is dead.
“I’ll never have Lala back, but [Herbert] won’t hurt another pet,” Lala’s owner, Michelle Plaketta, said after the verdict.
She and Maria Morales, the owner of another targeted dog, were in court for the verdict. Each woman’s family had lived next door to Herbert when their dogs were harmed. Both families have since moved.
“I have changed my life forever, but this man is in jail right now, so I am happy for my family,” Morales said.
Herbert, who had represented himself at trial in front of Superior Court Judge Carlos Armour, kept his arms tightly wrapped around his torso as he listened to the court clerk read the verdict in the Vista courthouse.
The jury found Herbert guilty of six felony charges of animal cruelty, as well as a count of residential burglary, a charge arising from allegations that he entered his then-neighbor’s home and attacked the dogs on one occasion.
The panel also found him guilty of four misdemeanor counts for slashing tires of vehicles belonging to the same neighbors whose home was broken into and whose dog’s eye was injured.
Armour ordered the 37-year-old Herbert jailed without bail, finding that he presented “a clear and present danger” to the public. After his arrest last year, Herbert posted $1-million bail and had been free while awaiting trial.
Authorities said Herbert targeted Morales’ family, who lived next door to him on a cul-de-sac in north Oceanside. He was accused of burning their two dogs with a caustic chemical and also slashing tires of the family’s vehicles four times in early 2017.
Morales testified that she came home one day in April 2017 to find that someone had entered her home and gouged out the left eye of her husky, named Estrella. Morales and her family moved out of the rental home immediately. Estrella survived.
A month or so later, Plaketta’s family moved in. They, too, had two dogs. Within two days, their 9-year-old golden retriever Lala disappeared. Police later found a traces of the dog’s blood inside Herbert’s car and on a baseball bat he owned.
At trial, Herbert testified that Lala had jumped into his car and that he could not get her out, so he decided to take her to a shelter. He said the dog was injured when heavy items in the back of his car slid into her when the car rounded a corner, and that she ran off when he opened the door.
He later admitted that he had placed the dog in the car himself. But he denied having struck Lala with the bat.
The investigation revealed that Herbert’s internet searches included the query: “How to get a dog to drink antifreeze.”
During trial, he admitted to having purchased ethylene glycol — a compound in antifreeze — and leaving it around his property.
Herbert is due back in court for sentencing Oct. 1.