The owner of a pitbull puppy that Irvine police alleged overdosed on fentanyl is disputing claims made by police after the dog’s drug urine test came out negative.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office has not yet filed charges against the couple, who were arrested Sept. 6 on suspicion of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, as well as animal cruelty.
Police say the drug test did not specifically test the 8-week-old puppy, Myla, for fentanyl. Additional blood work testing is being done, according to Irvine Police Sgt. Karie Davies.
Meanwhile, as of Friday, Sept. 22, her owner has 3 days left to pay $2,586 the city of Irvine wants for vet bills and room and board for Myla, according to police.
Paying the tab will allow Caleb Gibson of San Juan Capistrano to retain legal ownership of the puppy, police said, though he would not get the dog back until the investigation is resolved.
Myla is currently being held at the Animal Care Center in Irvine.
Gibson, 27, said he is a full-time student and can’t afford to pay. But if he doesn’t, the puppy would be considered abandoned by the City of Irvine, Davies said.
On Sept. 6, Gibson and his 25-year-old girlfriend parked in a Walmart parking lot to feed themselves and their dog, he said, when he was approached by an Irvine police officer, who he said accused him of littering and pointed to a wrapper from his breakfast burrito on the ground. Gibson said he apologized and told the officer he planned on picking up the wrapper after he finished feeding his pup.
At that point, Gibson said, his car was surrounded by four to five police officers, who told him to get out of the car.
He said he handed the dog to his girlfriend and told police there were drugs in the car. Afterward, he said, he sat with Myla on the curb for almost an hour and said she appeared playful and did not show any overdose symptoms.
The puppy did not begin showing symptoms of a possible fentanyl overdose until she was in police custody, according to police and the owner. Gibson said he was taken to a separate room at the station and didn’t learn about Myla’s reported overdose until he was questioned hours after. He was surprised to hear about it.
“How come the dog is just overdosing now, you guys have had the dog for several hours,” Gibson said he told police after being questioned.
In a Facebook post, Gibson said multiple officers handled the drugs in the car and allowed Myla, who was teething, to chew on their fingers afterward.
He also disputed a statement by police that his girlfriend told officers the pup had overdosed once before. Gibson said what his girlfriend told police was that the puppy could be overdosing, and that she had previously seen a dog overdose.
“That’s ridiculous, no. I would think that if a puppy was actually given fentanyl it would die, sadly,” Gibson said. “I just feel like they’re trying to take my dog away from me with whatever motive they have.”
Davies, citing the ongoing investigation, declined to comment on Gibson’s accusations against the officers.
After previously dealing with drug addiction, Gibson said, he is now in a methadone maintenance program in Santa Ana. He also said he is currently studying welding full-time at Summit College.
He said he fell in love with Myla after helping a friend care for a litter of puppies when the mother fell ill.
His girlfriend could not be reached for comment.