Boy with autism placed in dog kennel in Anaheim; parents arrested

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- The parents of an 11-year-old boy with autism have been arrested for allegedly keeping him in a large dog kennel at their home in Anaheim.

An anonymous call tipped off authorities to a home on the 1300 block of Garrett Street Tuesday night. Investigators say they found a large cage with a mattress inside.

The child was not inside the cage when police arrived, but investigators say, based on the evidence, they believed that the boy had been kept in there.

Loi Vu, 40, and Tracy Trang Lee, 35, told authorities they were keeping their son inside the cage for his own protection. They said it was to help control his behavior and frequent "outbursts."

"We did develop information here at the home and our preliminary investigation indicates that as the boy has gotten older, his outbursts have turned violent. They've had difficulty controlling him. This may have been their effort to try to control him better," said Lt. Bob Dunn with the Anaheim Police Department.

It's still unclear how long the boy was kept in the cage or how often he was in there. The parents were arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment.

The boy and his siblings, ages 10 and 8, were taken into protective custody. There were no visible signs of injuries to the children.

Neighbors said they were surprised to hear about what was going on in the home.

"They were never loud or abusive. I never heard anything that would indicate to me that there was any trouble in the house whatsoever," said neighbor Bob Emerson.

Autism experts say, as egregious as it sounds, it's not unusual for families with children diagnosed with severe autism or behavioral disorders to feel helpless and take extreme measures.

"They're self-abusive, they're hurting themselves, they're aggressive to their mother, their father, their younger siblings, and I don't think anyone can really understand the stress they're under unless they see it or experience it for themselves," said Dr. Joseph Donnelly of the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Dr. Donnelly is urging the public to reach out to anyone they may know who has a child with autism. With one in 68 children now being diagnosed with autism, more resources are needed to meet the rising demands.

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