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Animal welfare officials are investigating a possible case of cruelty after an emaciated and badly-injured dog, whose body was branded, was discovered near death in Aurora on the weekend.

Investigators are trying to identify the male dog's owner and figure out if the animal was abused when it had numbers branded on both sides of its body and when it suffered a traumatic head injury, causing it to go blind in its right eye.

Officials don't know if the dog's head injury was inflicted by a human or if the animal was wounded as it roamed free.

Regardless, York Regional Police are crediting a homeowner and one of their constables for helping to save the three- to four-year-old dog’s life after he was found curled up under a tree in a yard Sunday afternoon.

“He wasn’t doing very well," said police Const. Netashia McLellan. "I think every breath was a struggle for him."

McLellan was the first police officer on scene after a homeowner found the dog in distress on Offord Crescent, near Bayview Avenue and Bloomington Road East.

McLellan, a former animal control officer, said "time was of the essence" to get the dog to a veterinarian for emergency medical care, so she notified members of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The dog was scared and its legs were weak, but officers were able to coax him with some treats, as he had been without food for "quite some time," McLellan said.

“I think he was really happy to see us come and help him," McLellan said.

The dog was rushed to a veterinary clinic in Richmond Hill, and has been turned over to the OSPCA, which is overseeing his recovery and trying to locate his owner.

In addition to suffering a head injury and being malnourished, the dog had been branded with an unknown chemical, leaving the numbers “191” on both sides of its body.

Investigators don't know why the dog was branded, but they are looking into the possibility that it was done for identification purposes for fox hunting or hound trials.

As for its health, the dog is doing significantly better, and McLellan has been calling it "Lucky 191," a reference to the numbers branded on its body.

The dog is expected to make a full recovery.

“At the initial intake of the dog, his vital signs were very low, so he’s made a great recovery so far," OSPCA investigator Brad Dewar told reporters at the agency's Newmarket headquarters Thursday.

Because the dog was taken in as a stray, he is "on hold" until Friday. If the owner doesn't step forward, the dog will be put up for an adoption once it is has recovered from the ordeal and is healthy enough to leave the OSPCA's care, Dewar said.

OSPCA investigators are appealing for the dog’s owner and any witnesses to come forward.

Anyone with information is asked to call the OSPCA at 1-888-668-7722 ext. 392.

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