LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police in a Southern California city found an unusual stolen item this week in the back of a compact car with tinted windows - a live, three-day-old calf, an animal welfare official said on Friday.
Police saw two people standing next to the car early on Wednesday morning in Riverside, a city about 50 miles (80 km) east of Los Angeles, and approached them because it was odd for them to be behind a closed auto shop at that hour, said Riverside County Animal Services spokesman John Welsh.
Only later did they realize the calf was in the back of the car, which had tinted windows, Welsh said.
Officers arrested 31-year-old Cesar Zamora Santana, one of the two people standing next to the car, for possessing a calf without ownership documentation and on an outstanding arrest warrant for narcotics charges, Riverside police said in a statement. The police statement did not release details on the narcotics charges.
Riverside, a city with a population of more than 300,000 people, is located in an area that has some farms mixed in with suburban communities.
The calf had its identification tags ripped off and it appears to have been stolen, despite Santana's claim that he had bought it at a gas station for $200, police said.
"It's rare where you're going to have a live, breathing animal in the back of a car," Welsh said. "The serious side of it is somebody owns this calf and it was stolen."
The three-day old calf, which is a Holstein, was wobbly on its feet when it was led away from the car, Welsh said. "It was nervous, it was skittish, it didn't know where the hell it was," he added.
The animal has recovered and is being cared for at a dairy farm as authorities seek its owner, Welsh said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler)