The death of an Anchorage dog has spurred more than 1,000 people to sign a petition urging the Anchorage Police Department to do more in animal cruelty cases.


Tina Coulston and her family had to leave town suddenly in early May due to a medical emergency. They left their home and dog, Spencer, in the care of two house sitters they found and vetted through Craigslist. Coulston said when her husband returned home around a month later, their house had been robbed and Spencer was gone.


The 15-year-old dog was blind and diabetic, requiring regular insulin shots. At first Coulston thought Spencer was missing. That’s when group Anchorage Pets Lost and Found got involved, sharing his picture on Facebook and asking for help to find him. Instead his body was found, wrapped up in a bag and left in a ditch.


“It’s been really tough on my son,” Coulston said. “That was his fifth birthday present. Spencer was his dog.”


She said the people watching her house told them Spencer wasn’t feeling well and they had taken him to the vet, but she now thinks that story was a lie.


“I’m guessing that they were just doing a bad job of his medication and he died,” Coulston added.


“It speaks to the larger behavior, I think, of how not only we treat animals but how we treat each other,” said Cynthia White, a member of Anchorage Pets Lost and Found.


The group started a petition, asking APD to look into Spencer’s death and other cases of animal cruelty.


“We don’t want this death to be in vain,” White said. “He has galvanized us to hopefully bring this issue in general to the attention of APD and the mayor’s office and animal control and see how we can all work together to affect positive change.”


She said APD is sometimes slow to take action, especially when animal control isn’t available.


“There is, historically, a gap in animal control services when they close at night,” White said. “Who do we call if there’s an issue, of there’s an animal being abused?”


APD said they are still gathering information from the Coulston family and will investigate from there. Tina Coulston said she has been in contact with detectives, but is struggling to get them the information they need. She’s still out of state and dealing with a sick family member.


The Anchorage Pets Lost and Found petition has been signed by more than 1,000 people since it was posted Monday. The group said they are heartened by the positive response. Coulston said she’s glad Spencer’s death can be used to raise awareness and hopes what happened to her family doesn’t happen to anyone else.


KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.