By now, many of us have seen the terrifying video of a dog riding on the top of a trailer, speeding down Interstate 95 in Florida with nothing but a chain to protect him from falling off. For those that haven’t:
Brenna Cronin of Palm Coast, FL, was riding down the highway with her boyfriend when they passed the “shocking” situation. “I had never seen anything like that before,” she told CNN. “I was completely appalled and disgusted.”
Cronin whipped out her phone to take a video, getting as much information as she could in order to report the seemingly cruel act. She went on to tell CNN:
“As I was filming the dog and he saw me, he stood up and looked so scared. You know when dogs are happy, they have their tail wagging and a big smile. He was terrified.”
After Cronin reported what she had seen to the Flagler Humane Society, she also posted the video to Facebook, where it went viral.
It has since been viewed 2.3 million times and gotten over 21,000 shares. One woman even shared a similar picture with Cronin of the same dog on the highway, presumably taken before her video, that she found on Swip Swap — an online marketplace.
While most of the comments on the video agreed with Cronin’s view that this was a cruel and dangerous act, some did speak up in defense of the action.
This terrifying scenario isn’t technically an illegal act in Florida. Section 5-64 of the Flagler County, FL, Code of Ordinances states:
“All dogs taken off their owner’s property and transported in the open bed of pickup trucks, or in any other type of open vehicle, to public places or residential areas shall be confined in pens in or on such trucks or other vehicles or be restrained by a minimum of two (2) tethers or some other similar method to safely control or restrain the dogs from easily escaping the vehicles.”
Zeus, the beautiful blue-nosed pit bull that was on top of that trailer driving around 70-75 miles per hour (by Cronin’s estimation), was only tethered by a single chain. The cage he sat atop, frequently called a “box” in hunting terms, was open to the air with nothing more than that single chain to prevent him from falling off. When law enforcement tracked the SUV down, the owners received a fine of $35, according to The Palm Coast Observer.
PupJournal spoke with Flagler Humane Society’s Executive Director, Amy Carotenuto, who told us:
“When that law was written, it was written for the back of a truck. The box was too small for the dog to be riding on, even tethered properly.”
Carotenuto went on to say that another bill (SB 320) had been proposed to the Senate just a week before this happened. If passed, the law would provide harsher penalties to animal abusers and those who don’t comply with the legislature.
Zeus’ viral video could be helpful in getting that bill pushed through.
Many questioned whether this was a hunting dog or if there was something more sinister at play — like a dog fighting ring. Sadly, both are common in southern states. Investigators did not seem to find anything linking the dogs or owners to fighting, so it’s likely that these were hunting dogs.
Pit bull types are frequently used in hunting because they will grab the animal being hunted and hold it until the owner can get it. They call these “catch dogs,” and they are used for hunting animals like hogs and working with livestock.
Hunters commented on various threads that the dogs “enjoy” riding in this way, and that they frequently drive fast with untethered dogs in the woods while hunting. Pet Rescue Report spoke with Flagler County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Mark Strobridge, who said Zeus’ owner contacted them the day after the video went viral and told them his dog liked riding on top of the cage.
“He seemed accustomed to it,” Carotenuto said. But she pointed out again that it was still too small of a box for him to safely ride on top of down the highway, even with proper tethers.
Next, Cronin noticed a “brand” on the back of Zeus’ leg when she saw him on the highway that day, which has also sparked outrage.
Most of us think of branding in the traditional sense, with a painful hot iron that burns the flesh. However, many of these dogs (and other animals) are being branded using a “cold” method called “freeze branding.”
While Carotenuto described it as “something you or I would probably never do to our dogs,” it is supposed to be a less painful way of branding. Cold branding uses liquid nitrogen or dry ice to cool a branding iron, which alters the pigmentation and/or removes the hair so that it grows back in white. This is exactly the type of brand that was on Zeus.
PupJournal asked Carotenuto if further actions were being taken to ensure the safety of Zeus and the other dogs under the owner’s care. She responded that while the dogs didn’t live in Flagler County and technically weren’t under their jurisdiction, they “have been working in conjunction with St. John’s County Pet Center to check in on the dogs.”
Carotenuto went on to say:
“The owners were recently at a wellness clinic getting vaccinations and medical care for all of their dogs [after this investigation]. They did seem to care, and I think they learned their lesson.”
Many are furious that the owners only received a small fine as discipline. The investigation is still ongoing and cruelty charges could be brought against Zeus’ owners if detectives determine there was criminal intent to be cruel to the dog.
Related: 9 Ways To Stop An Animal Abuser
We encourage all who are outraged to write your local legislators and get involved to lobby for stronger laws and penalties against animal cruelty. You can also sign this petition.