Navy veteran accused of poisoning, gouging dogs’ eyes

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – A man accused of dousing two dogs with acid and gouging out their eyes during a North County break-in was arrested Wednesday in Oceanside.

Oceanside police were seen at a home on Carino Way Wednesday morning after announcing the arrest of 36-year-old David Herbert. They executed a search warrant of his home.

Herbert is a disabled veteran who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after serving six years, according to police. He does not own or have any animals at his residence.

Herbert faces multiple felony charges including animal abuse, using a deadly weapon, residential burglary, vandalism and petty theft.  If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Investigators have been searching for the "monster" who repeatedly abused a family's dogs, named Cocayo and Estrella, by burning their skin with acid or a similar caustic liquid, gouging out one of their eyes and apparently trying to poison them. The dogs' eyes suffered "significant" injuries causing veterinarians to surgically remove them.

The owners of the dogs reported at least four vandalism and animal-cruelty incidents at their former home on Carino Way. The episodes took place over a course of several months, the owners reported.

“The victims have had their vehicle tires punctured three times, and their two Siberian huskies have suffered injuries twice,” OPD Lt. Valencia Saadat said.

A GoFundMe.com page was set up by the victims to seek financial aid to help pay their veterinary bills. They raised $9890 and completed the fundraising campaign.  A message on the fundraising web page had stated the family thinks “the monster responsible may be a neighbor who (wanted) them to move out.”

Following the home invasion and acts of animal cruelty, the victims did move away, Saadat said.

The next family to move into the property reported both of their dogs went missing from their home three months ago, police said. One was recovered by neighbors, but the second, Lala a golden retriever, was never returned home.

“She just knew she just knew how to comfort and just love you,” said Michelle Plaketta, LaLa's owner. "My kids cry every night and as a parent, I can't mend their broken heart."

"It was determined Lala was taken from the home by a neighbor.  A search of the suspect’s home was conducted on June 1, 2017.  Items of evidentiary value were recovered and submitted for evaluation.  Based on the totality of the investigation, it is believed Lala was subjected to a violent assault which caused severe injury.  She has never been located and her whereabouts are unknown," Oceanside police released in a statement.

“I knew, I knew right then that something bigger had happened,” said Plaketta.

Although the Plaketta family is relieved, they want more answers.

"Did he kill her? Did he torture her? What happened? Whether she's dead or alive, my family deserves to know," Plaketta said.

Anyone with information should contact Oceanside police at 760-435-4580. Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling 760-435-4730.