TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County Animal Services investigators exhumed the body of a family dog Friday after its owners wondered if their pet had been killed by someone in the neighborhood.
The 3-year-old Boxer, named Don, disappeared Saturday. His caretaker, Michell Mitchell, searched the neighborhood and surrounding yards for him.
The dog was found in a trash can around the corner from its home, with a metal air conditioning duct pipe wrapped around his head. There was also a hole above the dog's hind leg, which Mitchell believes is a gunshot wound.
"It's very, very heartbreaking because I bottle-fed that dog from two weeks," Mitchell said. "What I seen that night and what I seen in that trash can, I never could imagine in my life somebody can do something like that to something so innocent."
Mitchell said a Tampa police officer responded to the scene Wednesday, but determined the dog likely died because of an accident.
But the animal's family doesn't believe the officer looked close enough.
"After she put the gloves on, she opened the lid, [looked inside it] and closed it back," Mitchell said.
Mitchell posted about the situation on social media and investigators began to receive calls from concerned citizens.
Hours later, Animal Services investigators were at the home where Don had been buried to dig up his body. Experts were going to X-ray the dog to try to determine whether animal cruelty and abuse caused his death.
"We just wanted to know how he ended up dead and how, all of a sudden, he ended up in a trash can right around the corner from the house," Mitchell said, adding she's barely slept since he disappeared and she misses the family's dog. "He was a big baby, a really big baby, gentle. He really was."
The results of the X-ray were unknown as of late Friday.
Tampa police responded Friday evening in a Tweet that there was nothing to suggest the dog was tortured as posted on social media. "While this is a very sad incident, there's no evidence at this time that indicates criminal wrongdoing," Tampa police said.
Any other information will be released by Hillsborough County Animal Control, the department said.