The incident marks three weeks since a woman dumped a plastic bag of seven puppies inside of a Coachella Valley dumpster
For the second time in less than a month, a puppy was found inside of a plastic bag in a Coachella Valley Dumpster — this time badly burned and with part of her tail cut off — and now, animal advocates in California are searching for answers.
Since the heartbreaking discovery, a Sherman Oaks animal rescue agency has been caring for the two-week-old pit bull mix and are offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can help them find the person who heartlessly burned and dumped the pup.
On Sunday afternoon, Alejandra Espinoza Zazueta tells PEOPLE her mother noticed some clients digging through a dumpster outside of the jewelry store she works in Coachella.
Thinking that the clients were looking for something they accidentally threw away, Zazueta says her mother was shocked when they pulled out a plastic Walmart bag containing a crying puppy, now renamed Hope after “the fighter that she is.”
The find was particularly disturbing as it was the second time that a passerby discovered a plastic bag containing puppies inside of a dumpster in Coachella Valley. (Last month, Deborah Sue Culwell was accused of dumping seven puppies in a closed plastic bag into the trash.)
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“My mom didn’t know what else to do besides call me,” Zazueta recalls of arriving at the scene to find the puppy covered with third-degree burns on her skin from her mid-waist down to her back legs. “We didn’t know if she was going to make it.”
After carefully transferring Hope to a towel inside of a small box, Zazueta said she called the Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control to report the incident and reached out on social media for help.
In the meantime, Zazueta knew Hope needed immediate medical attention and took her to a local vet after Alanna Rizzo, a reporter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, offered to help raise funds for the puppy’s medical treatment.
“[Hope] smelled awful and we found out that her skin was completely rotten on her back,” Zazueta explains. “They had to surgically remove it.”
Due to the cost of the puppy’s continued treatment, the injured dog was transferred to Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Sherman Oaks.
“I was hauling my butt to Los Angeles, trying to get her there as fast as I could because her medication was going to expire within two hours,” Zazueta said of her over three hour trip from Coachella. “She did suffer a little to get there, but once she did, she was taken care of immediately.”
While there, medical staff from McGrath Veterinary Center were called in and determined that Hope’s severe burns were likely intentional, with owner Brian McGrath telling PEOPLE they were caused by contact with a heated object or “corrosive chemicals.”
“She had severe burns covering about 30 percent of her body causing her skin to slough off,” he says. “This type of injury is caused either by a severe thermal burn or exposure to corrosive chemicals.”
“She is still very weak,” he adds. “At this stage, she is prone to infection so she needs daily wound management as well as fluids antibiotics and pain medication. So far, she has been responding fantastically to treatment and after a long road, we expect a full recovery.”
The puppy, who still cannot walk, currently remains in an intensive care unit with 24-hour monitoring as she recovers from her injuries.
As of Thursday morning, Zazueta says Hope was doing significantly better, with an increase in energy and more mobility.
Her back legs, however, still have little to no movement and Zazueta tells PEOPLE there is a chance the puppy may be paralyzed — something that she is perfectly accepting of as Hope’s new owner as she plans to adopt the dog when she is well enough to come home.
“We’re completely fine with that, we are more than willing to take her in,” she explains, noting that she may get her a wheelchair if it turns out that the young pooch cannot use her back legs.
“She has a home and we’re waiting for her eagerly,” Zazueta adds. “We have everything [for her], we’re ready, and we’re just waiting for the day that they call us and say we can go pick her up.”
In the meantime, Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation is continuing to review security footage near the dumpster to find the person who placed Hope into the trash and has publicly announced their $10,000 reward on their website.
“We will do everything we can to hold whoever did this accountable, but will need the public’s help,” the site reads.
As she looks forward to bringing Hope home, Zazueta struggles to wrap her mind around how someone could do this to an innocent puppy.
“It’s cruel, I honestly don’t understand how a person could do this to defenseless little puppies,” she says. “I am mind-boggled and distraught and furious that this is what happened.”
“I just want [Hope] to feel loved, that is all I want,” Zazueta adds, getting choked up. “I want her to know that a lot of people care about her and she is safe with me and I can promise her that it won’t ever happen to her ever again.”