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Neighbors shocked when abused puppy is returned to owner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 20-year-old man seen in a Facebook video yelling at a puppy, smacking her and picking her up by the neck was charged with animal cruelty in March. After neighbors were shocked to learn the man paid a $500 fine and got his dog back, they are circulating a petition seeking to have the punishment increased for those who abuse animals.

The video, taken through a fence by Matthew Long's Mandarin neighbor, is graphic. The neighbor reported his actions, and her video was used as evidence in court.

That woman and other neighbors were surprised and concerned when they saw the beagle-hound-mix puppy named Fiona back at the Long's home.

"I truly would rather just beat him instead, because I think that's more appropriate," the unnamed neighbor told News4Jax. "I don't think he understands (that) the dog doesn't understand."

Judge Gary Flower's office responded to questions about his decision to return the dog to Long. A spokesman said that the dog was returned on condition that Long complete an anger-management course, attend obedience classes with Fiona, write a letter of apology to the dog, pay $1,015 to the city for boarding and caring for the dog and violating the animal ordinance.

Misdemeanor animal abuse is punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine is $5,000.

Long didn’t answer the door when News4Jax tried to talk to him Tuesday. Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services did not respond to a request for a comment.

"Even now, I'm hearing it. (I) absolutely don't think anyone who treats a dog that we should ever have a dog I don't think they should have to go to training I just don't think they should have a dog some people just aren't made for it," the unnamed neighbor said.

Founder of a local hound rescue, Swamp Haven Rescue, said the way Long handled Fiona is never useful.

"It's proven that fear-based training just doesn't work," Lindsey Kelley said. "Trying to put fear into an animal, you're never going to get the response that you want -- except they are afraid of you."

The neighbors are encouraging people to read and consider signing a Change.org petition seeking to "to impose stricter, harsher punishment and penalties in the event of the abuse, torture, and killing of innocent animals."


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Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.