I had to meditate a bit before I began writing this story just to calm my boiling blood a bit. Deep breaths….okay. So back on March 25th, 2019, a man was arrested in the Florida Keys. Security video footage had shown him riding up to a home on a scooter with a cat in the rear basket. As the man turns around, likely seeing the cameras, you can see another cat he’s DRAGGING BEHIND the scooter! Residents called the police and Neptune Lester Hugo Steele, age 47, was later charged with felony animal abuse. However it looks like Steele is going to be able to move past the “incident” fairly quickly. No so much for the poor cat in the video. Because the courts have also decided to give him back custody of the cat!
So how do we go from dragging a cat behind a scooter to having the same cat returned to the abuser? Argh.
On the night of the incident, Big Pine Key resident David Charles Landis’s security camera had captured the suspicious activity. When his motion detector lights turned on, he looked to see what had caused the commotion. He did NOT expect to see animal abuse in his own front yard; literally!
“Looks like he was checking out what’s under my house until motion lights came on.”
He later posted the footage on the “What’s Up Florida Keys? Locals Only” Facebook page. With the dark and unclear video, he was attempting to find out if anyone knew the man on the scooter.
Apparently someone did.
The police received a call from a woman who stated she’d taken the cat from Steele. And he just happened to be one of her neighbors on Father Tony Way. He had told her the cat had been hit by a car. She rushed it to a nearby animal hospital around 3:00 AM for him. When she had spoken to Steele, she stated that he appeared extremely intoxicated. His cat, Toppy, was clearly not in good hands but there is no report that Steele fought her assistance.
But Steele claimed the blood was because the cat had been hit by a car, not dragged behind a scooter.
She said she didn’t question Steele’s story because her only concern was the cat’s welfare. It was bleeding from all paws.
It wasn’t until later when she saw the video on Facebook that she put the coincidences together. Even more damming for Steele, while she was identifying him to the police, another woman called her to confirm it was her neighbor in the film.
Deputies saw the scooter matching the one seen in the Facebook video. [It had] blood on its seat and around it on the ground in Steele’s driveway on Father Tony Way.
Back at the veterinarian’s office, none of Toppy’s injuries were consistent with being hit by a large object though. They were consistent with being dragged.
And when the police investigated further, they found a blood trail 6 blocks long.
Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay was adamant they deal with the suspect immediately. And Steele was in custody shortly after, still drunk when he was arrested.
I was disgusted by this case and made it my top priority this morning. 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.
So…how is it that Steele is now being handed the victim cat, Toppy, back?!
Well about a month ago, Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler concluded the court case with a disturbing verdict. She made the decision to let Steele have Toppy back. Okay, breathe again….
During the case, Steele pled guilty to the charges. He received a 12-month probation sentence, must pay a $1,000 fine and undergo a psychological evaluation.
He must also cooperate with the Florida Keys SPCA who will make sporadic, unannounced welfare checks. They will evaluate all the animals that he is “caring” for.
Sure, that’ll help if Steele is in the middle of committing his next abuse. But what happens when they’re too late? What happens when he is drunk again and doesn’t even REMEMBER abusing them? There are just too many factors here that could go against the animals well-being.
And I’m sure there are more facts that we won’t ever know about Mr. Steele. Driving drunk seems to be an after thought here sadly. But whether he lied originally or truly was too inebriated to know, you don’t put living creatures back in those conditions. I honestly hope that Mr. Steele regrets his actions and does all he can to NEVER put any animals, himself or others–in harms way again.
REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!
Related Story: Sweet Black Kitten Saved With Two Broken Front Legs–After Being Tied To String And Dragged!Related Story: Cat Found With Three Broken Legs; Foster’s Boyfriend Being Investigated For Animal Abuse