VIERA, Fla. – Brevard County sheriff's deputies arrested an 18-year-old man who they said was caught on video swinging a Shih Tzu by its leash and slamming it to the ground at a boarding facility, breaking the dog's leg.
[WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO AT TOP AND BOTTOM OF STORY]
Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey said Joseph Pendergrass, who works at Barkingham Palace on U.S. 1 in Rockledge, was captured on video abusing the animal earlier this week.
Ivey said Pendergrass also appeared to kick the dog.
Barkingham Palace owner Candy Pearce told News 6 Thursday that Pendergrass fooled her staff, making them think he was an animal lover.
"Totally shocked, how anyone could do that is so beyond me," Pearce said.
Pearce said she alerted authorities right away following the alleged incident Sunday night.
"I immediately went into our cameras," she said. "As soon as I was horrified to see what he had done, I got on the phone and called the police and asked them to please go arrest him. He told us that he might have stepped on the dog. He wasn't for sure if he had or not. So of course, I didn't take him at his word."
In a message posted on Facebook, Ivey called the incident "one of the most despicable acts of animal cruelty" that he's ever seen.
"Now, Mr. Pendergrass, I've told everyone before that if you hurt an animal in Brevard County, you're going straight to jail," Ivey said. "So the best thing for you to do is man up, do the right thing by turning yourself in, and face the consequences of your actions."
Four days after the initial report from Barkingham Palace, Ivey announced the suspect's arrest, which occurred Thursday in Orlando.
The sheriff said earlier this week that the teen had fled the state.
Ivey said Pendergrass was in Georgia until his family convinced him to come back home and surrender to authorities.
"The only word that I can think of is evil," said the sheriff when asked Thursday what could have possibly motivated the accused teen to allegedly hurt a small dog.
"Simple message is: If you hurt an animal in Brevard County, you hurt a child, you hurt a senior, you hurt anybody, you're going to jail and we're not going to play about," he said.
The sheriff also took a moment to commend Barkingham Palace staff for speaking up when workers watched the video.
"To me, they're heroes. They did exactly what we wanted them to do," Ivey said.
A Barkingham Palace spokesperson said Pendergrass began part-time work at their facility in November. The owner said he passed their background check and had nothing in his record revealing any red flags.
"To make it through all of that, without having a kind heart to animals, we're shocked," Pearce said. "None of us saw it coming, so I really have Sheriff Wayne Ivey to thank for going after it and taking care of this terrible situation."
Pendergrass is charged with one felony count of animal cruelty. He bonded out of jail late Thursday night.
The sheriff said investigators hope the disturbing surveillance video will force the teen to confess to what deputies say he did.
The sheriff also says the Shih Tzu is expected to make a full recovery.
Watch News 6 for more on this story.
BREVARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE ASKS FOR PUBLIC'S HELP IN LOCATING FUGITIVE IN ANIMAL CRUELTY CASEPosted by Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Florida (Official) on Wednesday, January 25, 2017