PALM COAST, Fla. – A video posted on a Facebook page showing a dog riding on the back of a trailer towed behind an SUV on Interstate 95 prompted an investigation by Flagler County Animal Services and the Sheriff's Office.
Investigators said they have been in touch with the owner of the pit bull, named Zeus, who was driving south on I-95 from Hastings and got off in Flagler County to go hunting at Bulow Plantation. The dog can be seen on a single tether attached to a hunting dog box that contained two other dogs.
Officials with the Flagler Humane Society said the have issued Zues' owner a ticket for the violation.
“The owner has many dogs living both inside and outside that were all well cared for,” Flagler Animal Services Officer Bryan Denker said. “All the kennels were clean and there was nothing criminal or out of the ordinary.” The owner did receive a ticket for failure to properly tether an animal in violation of a Flagler County ordinance.
The video, which was shot by someone riding beside the truck on the road, has sparked widespread criticism and outrage on social media.
“That’s terrible. I realize it’s an animal and it’s not a human being. But still, animals are just as precious and we’re all God's creatures," traveler Kyla Bays said.
News4Jax stopped by the dog owner's home in St. Johns County Thursday night. The owner was visibly upset as he vented his frustration about the video and the media attention surrounding it.
"Don't you have something better to do?" the owner said. "It's normal. It's legal."
A few minutes later, the owner, who News4Jax has chosen not to name because he has not been charged with a crime, calmed down and shared his side of the story, explaining why the dog was not inside the cage.
"When I let him out of his concrete kennel, which he stays in, he jumps on top. So, I put a strap on there because that’s how he likes to ride. If I would let him, he’d ride on the top of my truck. He does not want to get into the box. That’s the way he likes to ride," the owner said.
Though he feels like he didn't do anything wrong, the owner said, he understands why people are in an uproar when they see the video.
Authorities said that would not have been a problem if the dog was inside the cage, but because the animal was on top of the cage in what would be described as a dangerous situation, the dog could have been injured or killed if the owner had to slam on the brakes or was involved in a collision.
“It’s a really bad idea to do that,” said Jeffery Ritter, development coordinator for the Flagler Humane Society. “Honestly, you should have your pet in a carrier when they are in the car with you and keep them safe. Make sure something like this doesn’t happen. The worst thing I think could have ever happened was the dog could have fallen off on a moving vehicle on the interstate. It would have been awful.”
The driver has been cooperative with the animal investigators, who are part of the Flagler Humane Society, and assisted by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
The dog was found to be healthy and unhurt. Investigators don't believe the owner was trying to harm the animal but they continue to work to determine if any animal laws were broken.
“Unfortunately, people are able to travel with a dog on the back of a trailer or a truck. It just has to be contained, so if they’re in some kind of a crate, or something like that, they’re not in any violation of the law," Ritter explained. "However, seeing the dog just sitting there, especially on I-95 -- a very busy road where people go really fast -- that was the most upsetting part of that video.”
According to Flagler County ordinance, all dogs that are transported in an open bed of a pickup truck or other vehicle must be confined in pens or restrained by two tethers. In this case, the owner said that his animal was tethered by one line.
When asked what would have happened if he had gotten into an accident, the owner said, "It wouldn't have made a difference if he was in the back of the truck or the dog box."
Viewer warning: The video, shown with this story, contains curse words.