Delaware County humane officials are calling it the "absolute most horrific" example of animal cruelty they have seen.

The young dog likely was alive when it was crammed inside a canvas suitcase, which was then zipped, and left to die next to a vacant house in Chester. The inside of the blue bag was torn from scratch marks; the dog's teeth were clenched around an inner mesh liner as it fought to escape.

"It seems almost like punishment," said Justina Calgiano, spokeswoman for the Delaware County SPCA. "We've seen plenty of dogs running at large in Chester."

Neighbors near Second and Pusey Streets called police Thursday after seeing the dog's leg sticking out from the inside of the suitcase. Officials theorize that the suitcase had been there for some time. Squatters who live in the abandoned property might have opened the bag and then moved the case because of the smell, she said, adding that they were not suspects.

The dog, medium-size with tan or brown hair, had likely been dead weeks or months. Officials were not immediately able to determine the sex because of the body's condition. The words Cayman Islands printed on the inside of the bag were the only identifying label.

Whoever was responsible would be subject to numerous charges, including animal cruelty, failure to provide care and abandonment, Calgiano said.

Chester officials properly disposed of the animal's remains.

"There are always other options, and we are one of them," Calgiano said.

mschaefer@phillynews.com

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@MariSchaefer