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KEY WEST (CBSMiami) – A Big Pine Key man was arrested Monday after a disturbing video was posted on Facebook that reportedly showed him dragging a cat on a leash behind a moving scooter.
Neptune Lester Hugo Steele, 47, was charged with animal cruelty. The cat remained alive as of Monday afternoon at a Marathon animal hospital, but its paws were severely injured.
“I was disgusted by this case and made it my top priority this morning,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I want to thank our alert residents and the deputies who worked together to make an arrest in this case just hours after this incident was posted on social media. Such behavior will never be tolerated by the residents of the Florida Keys nor by me.”
The case began Monday morning when a resident a Ring® video on the closed group Facebook page titled, “What’s Up Florida Keys? LOCALS ONLY,” that showed a man wearing a large brimmed hat and white shirt driving a scooter. The scooter had a cat in the rear basket and another cat being dragged by a leash behind the scooter.
The resident who posted the video wanted other residents to see the video as the suspect, later identified as Steele, was seen looking under their house and then left when the motion lights came on.
The video was soon shared by many others.
Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies went to a residence on Avenue C after the department received a call about animal abuse. The woman they spoke with told them she took her neighbor, identified as Steele, and one of his cats to the animal hospital in Marathon about 3 a.m. because it was bleeding from its paws. She said Steele, who was very intoxicated told her it had been hit by a car.
She said she dropped Steele off and picked him up about 5:30 a.m. The cat remained at the animal hospital.
The woman then told the deputies that when she went on Facebook later that morning, she saw the video of the cat being dragged by the scooter. There was a substantial blood trail along the streets. While deputies were speaking to the woman, she received a phone call from another woman who also identified the suspect as Steele.
Deputies then went to Steeles’ residence. When they went to knock on the door, they observed a scooter matching the description of the one seen in the Facebook video. There was blood on the scooter seat. There was blood on the ground near the scooter.
A female who answered the door said Steele was in his room. Steele was woken and was evasive with his answers. He denied dragging the cat by the leash, according to the sheriff’s office.
He claimed the cat was struck by a car. Deputies noted there was no blood where the cat supposedly was struck by a car — rather the blood was near or on Steeles’ scooter.
Steele was arrested, charged with a felony count of causing suffering or pain to an animal, and taken to jail.