After months of diligent investigation, Detective David Cruz arrested a Key West man in connection with the dog found dead in a cage offshore of Big Coppitt Key in September.
The young cream colored dog with a purple collar was found submerged, in a cage, by the first bridge off U.S. One on Boca Chica Road. A necropsy was inconclusive in determining the cause of the dog’s death due to the condition of the body, although there were indications the dog may have drowned.
Detective Cruz was assigned to investigate. He contacted the company that made the cage the dog was found in and discovered four people in the Lower Keys who had purchased one. After checking with all four cage owners, only one could not tell him where his cage was – 28 year old Darrell Eacholes of Key West. Eacholes said he left the crate at a previous residence when he moved to Key West.
Detective Cruz then visited veterinarians in the Lower Keys area, asking both about the dog and about Eacholes. The Office manager at The Animal Hospital on Second Street, Stock Island, recognized the dog and confirmed the dog’s owner was Eacholes. The dog was an Gordon Setter / American Eskimo mix named “Bella”. She said they had treated the dog just two days before it was found dead.
Eacholes wife confirmed to Detective Cruz the dead dog was their dog “Bella”. She said the dog had been very sick and her husband had removed the dog from their residence, not telling her where he took it. Darrell Eacholes then confirmed he’d thrown the dog into the water. He said they did not have the money to treat her for her illness, and she had become non-responsive at the time he did it.
Because the necropsy could not prove the dog was alive at the time she was thrown into the water, Eacholes was arrested and charged with unlawful disposal of a dead animal. He was booked into jail.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind people to consider carefully before acquiring a pet. Many pets – such as pot bellied pigs, rabbits, chickens and ducks – are cute when they are small but soon grow out of that stage and become animals that are not always optimum pets. Dogs and cats are also wonderful companions, but before you take on any kind of pet, consider the cost of feeding and caring for the pet properly and make sure you can afford it. If, in an extreme circumstance, you find you cannot care for your pet, contact your local animal shelter – in the Lower Keys it is the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA). Disposing of a live pet – or a dead one – improperly is against the law.