DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – More than 50 dog lovers, some wearing shirts that read "Justice for Ponce," packed a courtroom as attorneys argued over evidence that could be used in an upcoming animal cruelty trial.
Travis Archer is accused of beating his Labrador retriever to death in April at his Ponce Inlet home.
Video from a police officer's body-worn camera shows the dog's lifeless body lying along a fence in Archer's backyard as the dog owner tries to explain what happened.
"My dog bit me and I hit him a couple times," Archer can be heard saying on the video. "I threw him against the wall."
Archer's attorneys are trying to get the video thrown out, claiming Archer did not give police consent to enter his property.
Prosecutors argued that police can legally enter a house without a warrant if there is a person or property is in imminent danger.
"I needed to check the well-being of the dog," Officer Brandon Bynes testified.
As prosecutors played clips of the officer's video, several courtroom spectators began to cry.
"The way Ponce was killed is what's getting at everyone's heart," said Debbie Darino.
Before the hearing, she and several dozen demonstrators stood along Ridgeway Avenue outside the courthouse waving signs and demanding changes to the state's animal cruelty laws.
Darino has begun an online petition and is working with state lawmakers to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from five years in prison to 15 years.
The proposed law would also make it more likely that people convicted of animal cruelty are incarcerated, she said.
"It'll make it easier to go to jail if you commit a crime against an animal, if you torture them, abuse them, kill them," said Darino.