Paw Works, a nonprofit animal rescue based in Thousand Oaks, California, is mourning the loss of Pretty Girl.
Early on June 9, an unknown individual “picked the locks” of Paw Works’ facility, setting off the security alarm at 2:42 am, and three minutes later left with a dog named Pretty Girl, Brittany Vizcarra, the director of operations at Paw Works, tells PEOPLE.
“I personally believe they were looking for a dog that seemed easy to grab,” she adds of the upsetting theft.
Unfortunately, Pretty Girl’s story took a sadder turn after she was stolen from the rescue. According to Vizcarra, “people in the community later reported seeing Pretty Girl on the 101 freeway around 8 am” several hours after she was taken.
“She was on foot and running northbound, but when people attempted to catch her, she jumped over the center divider and was struck by a car,” Vizcarra says.
A Good Samaritan brought the injured canine to Conejo Valley Vet, where veterinarians scanned Pretty Girl’s microchip and discovered she belonged to Paw Works. The vet office reached out to the rescue, who quickly collected the dog and brought her to the organization’s hospital.
While Pretty Girl sustained no broken bones from the accident, Paw Works veterinarians found that the dog suffered internal bleeding, head and spine trauma, and tearing in her organs. Vizcarra says that Pretty Girl started to crash shortly after arriving back at Paw Works.
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“Shortly after, she succumbed to her injuries. She was surrounded by Paw Works team members that she knew and loved, who tried everything in their power to help save her,” she adds.
This tragedy has left Paw Works searching for justice and answers. The rescue is currently working to find the individual responsible for stealing Pretty Girl, an incident that somehow led to the dog running around a busy California freeway by herself.
“Unfortunately, we are still unsure of who did this. We know from the video that it is a person wearing a large hoodie with a skull on the back, shorts, and Vans shoes. We encourage everyone to take a look at the surveillance video footage and contact the Camarillo PD with any tips,” Vizcarra says of how animal lovers can help the rescue heal.
Paw Works has shared the security footage featuring the theft on social media in hopes of uncovering details about who stole Pretty Girl. In an effort to find information, Paw Works, the rescue’s supporters, and PETA have raised $17,000 to serve as a reward for information that leads to the “the capture and prosecution of the person(s) of interest in Pretty Girl’s ongoing investigation,” per Vizcarra.
Pretty Girl arrived at Paw Works in April from a rural shelter in Avenal, California, where she was at risk of being euthanized. Vizcarra says the dog was “guarded” when she first arrived at Paw Works, a no-kill animal rescue.
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“But with some time and care, she was able to warm up and blossom into a happy, active, and silly girl. She loved to go for walks and snuggle up with her favorite rescue workers. We believe with the right, patient person, she would have been able to show her potential — but unfortunately, she never got that chance,” the Paw Works director adds.
Since Pretty Girl has lost the chance to have a happy future, Vizcarra and the rest of Paw Works hope they can still honor the dog’s life by getting justice.
Those with serious leads about Pretty Girl’s abductor should contact the Camarillo Police Department at 805-388-5100 and or call/text Paw Works at (805) 799-3937.