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PETA weighs in on police dogs alleged abuse
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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has weighed in on the investigation of a former Gainesville police officer’s training methods used with a police dog, calling for a criminal prosecution if the dog was abused.

PETA’s director, Martin Mersereau, issued a statement about the case Thursday and a cruelty caseworker with the organization wrote a letter to Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, continues to look into whether veteran police dog handler Angel Vargas abused a Belgian Malinois named Diego while training it.

Vargas, who last month left the force after 10 years with police department, has denied through his attorney that he improperly used a shock collar on the dog.

Police Chief Frank Hooper said a review of video footage of the dog training with Vargas appeared to show an electric shock collar attached to the dog’s midsection. Hooper said authorities were looking into whether electric shocks were delivered to the dog’s genitals in an effort to keep it from biting.

After Vargas left the department, the dog was deemed uncontrollably vicious and was euthanized. Police said an expert concluded the dog could not be rehabilitated from previous poor training methods used before the department acquired it last fall.

Hooper went to Darragh with concerns about whether a crime may have occurred, and the GBI was called in to investigate.

On Wednesday, Mersereau said in a statement that if a collar was attached to the dog’s genital area it was "clearly a premeditated act that shows the intention to inflict pain."

PETA Cruelty Caseworker Kristin DeJournett wrote Darragh, asking that "cruelty to animals charges be filed against Vargas if reports about the allegations against him have been accurately conveyed."

Reached Thursday, Darragh said he had not yet received a report from the GBI on the case.

"This is a continuing investigation and no decisions will be made about this case until I’ve had a full and fair chance to evaluate it," Darragh said.