Long Beach councilman and wife under investigation over accusations of animal cruelty

Long Beach Animal Control authorities are investigating Councilman Roberto Uranga and his wife, Tonia, for allegedly neglecting their two German shepherd dogs, the Post has learned.

The city of Long Beach on Thursday confirmed there’s an investigation, but did not name the Urangas. However, three sources with knowledge of the situation said the longtime politicians are the focus of the investigation.

The sources spoke on the condition they not be named because the investigation is ongoing.

In a statement, officials said Long Beach Animal Care Services was notified Sept. 13 by a private animal rescue group that it was in possession of two dogs that they believed were the victims of “animal cruelty and/or neglect.”

“Due to the circumstances surrounding the condition of the dogs, including the sudden death of one dog, ACS responded to the call and accepted the animals into its care and initiated an investigation regarding these allegations. The investigation is ongoing.”

The Urangas are longtime local political figures. Roberto, a former city employee, represents Long Beach’s 7th District and serves on several regional and statewide commissions, including the powerful California Coastal Commission. Tonia is a former two-term Long Beach city councilwoman who is running for a seat on the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education.

In a statement read through a spokesperson on Wednesday, Roberto Uranga said the dogs, named Ghost and Chloe, were both around 14 years old and were well cared for. They were up to date with all their vaccines and licensing, he added.

“They have been in our family since birth and they are part of our family,” he said. “The dogs, although aging, were always in good health with the exception of extreme allergies. The care of the dogs is extremely important to me and my family.”

The councilman said they were visiting family out of town for a weekend in September and chose to board Ghost and Chloe at a local pet hotel that they have used before. He said he shared with staff at the pet hotel the challenges his family was facing in keeping the dogs during the coronavirus pandemic because his family is at high risk and limited to going outside only for essential activities.

He said the pet hotel recommended a local rescue group that could take in the dogs.

“After a long discussion, we made the hard decision to move forward with a new home for them,” he said. “When we got back into town on Monday, we called the boarding facility and they informed us the dogs were fine and successfully picked up on Sunday by DBA Fix Long Beach.”

The councilman said he transferred the dogs to “what we believed was a reputable local nonprofit.”

A spokesperson for Fix Long Beach declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Michael Carneghi, who has lived next door to the Urangas for about two decades, said the dogs lived mostly in the backyard and were constantly barking or howling.

Carneghi said he has been feuding with the Urangas for years over the noise and has filed more than 50 complaints with the city. He said the Urangas started keeping the dogs indoors at night after another neighbor complained to the city.

“The barking was just constant,” he said.

Staycee Dains, director of Long Beach Animal Care Services, on Thursday confirmed an investigation into a report of animal cruelty but declined to provide details or names of the individuals due to the ongoing investigation.

Dains said Animal Control authorities typically will investigate a case then will present results to the “correct prosecutorial body for review.”

Depending on the results, the Long Beach city prosecutor would decide whether to file charges or send the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for review.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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