PHOENIX - A North Phoenix woman was stunned when her neighbor’s dog showed up on her doorstep with a swastika painted on its head.

The homeowner, who spoke with 12 News off camera, is half Hispanic with three adopted children of mixed race.

Her cousin, Sally Andrade, said the homeowner didn’t know what to think when she saw the symbol.

“She’s thinking, ‘What is this?’” Andrade said. “’Is this a message towards me? I have to protect my family.’”

While the homeowner said the oldest child knows exactly what the symbol is, his younger siblings are asking questions about what it means. It’s a question she finds hard to explain.

She also said the timing – so close to recent racial tensions involving white supremacists in other U.S. cities – added to her anxiety.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira is the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona.

“Certainly, it brings fear, and there is a cause for concern,” he said. “This is a symbol used by neo-Nazis, by skinheads and by white supremacists.”

“To find a dog in your neighborhood with that symbol on its head could be scary," Galindo-Elvira said.

Glendale police responded to check on the dog because of concerns it might be neglected.

The dog’s owners told police they drew the symbol on the dog as a joke.

“We don’t know where this is headed. It could've been a joke to the kids. If it is, where is it going to lead next?" asked Andrade.

The dog’s owners said they’ll remove the symbol.

Technically, they don’t have to. Galindo-Elvira said free speech allows them to do whatever they want with their own property. He said he wants more people to realize how damaging the symbol can be.

“It’s not a joke. It’s not funny,” Galindo-Elvira said. “It’s hurtful, and it can become harmful.”

The police officer who responded to the incident also reported that the owners of the dog were young, and he did not find any obvious signs of abuse.