A Flagler County resident contacted the Sheriff's Office after she saw the dog chained to a trailer heading south on Interstate 95.
A Flagler County, Florida woman was heading south on Interstate 95 Jan. 11 when she looked out her window and saw a sight that made her reach for her phone to take video, and, later, contact the police: The SUV next to her was towing a trailer with a dog chained down to its top, cowering in the wind.
Brenna Cronin posted the cell phone video of the wind-battered pooch to Facebook, where the video had attracted 427,000 views on Facebook by the afternoon of Jan. 12.
"Just saw this (profanity) driving down 95 with a dog with the letter S carved into his leg chained to the top of a cage....does anyone know this vehicle?," she wrote in the Facebook post.
Dozens of people replied, cursing the dog's owner and urging Cronin to call 911. She contacted the Flagler County Sheriff''s Office the morning of Jan. 12. (To view the video — warning: it contains profanity — click HERE.)
The Sheriff's Office opened an investigation and tracked down the driver and his wife, who live in Saint Johns County, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Laura Williams said.
"It's up to us to determine whether there was criminal intent to be cruel to the dog," she said. The Sheriff's Office is waiting for an assessment from Flagler Animal Services, she said. "Our detective plans to decide to file charges based on what they find out."
Amy Carotenuto — who directs the Flagler Humane Society, which oversees Animal Services — said that as far as Animal Services can tell, "We do not think (the driver) intended to harm the animal. ... They just weren't thinking."
Flagler Animal Services officers visited the driver's home the afternoon of Jan. 12 to do a welfare check on the dog, and issued a $35 ticket for violating a county ordinance on safe transportation of animals, she said. By that time, the video had gone viral, prompting outrage against the driver and his wife.
"I don't think they're going to do it again," Carotenuto said.
What was shown in the video, she said, was "infuriating," and transporting a dog that way risks both the dog and other people on the road.
"I've seen plenty of severely injured animals from falls out of pickup trucks," she said, noting that even pickup truck beds offer more protection than the dog in the video had. "It's not just the safety of the pets, it's the safety of the other drivers, too. If I saw a dog fall, I would swerve — and maybe get hit by a semi. It could have ended very tragically."
There are about a dozen dogs on the property, and officers from Saint Johns County Animal Control also visited to investigate, Carotenuto said.
Sheriff's Office deputies have also spoken to the driver's wife, who was cooperative, Williams said.
For now, Sheriff's Office Spokesman Mark Strobridge said, the dog is in the custody of the owner.
"At this point in time, there appears to be no immediate danger to the dog," he said. "We're very, very fortunate that there was no injury — not that that makes it right."
State animal cruelty charges are possible.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
— Jonathan Simmons contributed to this report.