A homeless man in Ventura County, California is accused of punting a small dog like a football at the beach last week, displacing the pup's heart.
Dylan McTaggart, 25, has been charged with felony animal cruelty after allegedly kicking the dog “15 feet into the air,” according to a Port Hueneme Police Department press release on Facebook.
The pup, whose name is Sophie, also suffered a collapsed lung, but survived the attack.
Police were dispatched around 2 p.m. Friday to the 500 block of East Surfside Drive in Port Hueneme, a small beach city in Ventura County, about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, after reports that a fight had broken out.
Authorities say they found McTaggart “throwing punches at one of the Port Hueneme lifeguards” in a beach parking lot.
The 25-year-old immediately fled on foot, police say, but was apprehended. Police say that he'd approached a woman "and her small breed dog from behind along the beach, and without provocation, kicked the dog approximately 15 feet into the air."
“The dog went into shock and was rendered unconscious,” the police statement added. “The small dog, known as Sophie, was kicked with so much force, she was diagnosed with having a collapsed lung and displaced heart.”
McTaggart, who’s being held on a $25,000 bond, was also charged for fighting in public and assault on a lifeguard.
“[McTaggart] came out of nowhere,” the dog’s owner, told Oxygen.com. The California woman in her thirties, who asked not to be identified, explained her mother was walking the dog when the attack occurred. She said the piercing yelp the dog made when McTaggart kicked her could be heard for hundreds of yards.
Police say McTaggart has a history of clashing with beachgoers on Hueneme Beach and that he's on probation for shoplifting and assaulting officers. He’s also a registered sex offender, according to officials, although Oxygen.com was unable to independently confirm this.
The dog is recovering from the vicious attack, but is still traumatized from the encounter.
“[Sophie] is physically each day she gets a little bit better,” Sophie’s owner explained. “Mentally, she’s a mess. She’s just not the same. She’s come a little ways but she still trembles when she goes outside. She reacts to noises but time will tell.”
Sophie’s owner said her dog is a miniature schnauzer, who’s about 8 years old.
The Ventura County woman added that while she’s “extremely angry,” she pities McTaggart, who she called a “tortured” and “very, very, angry person.” She added that her dog is “the reason I get up in the morning.”
“It’s sickening,” said Jolene Hoffman, shelter director for the Humane Society of Ventura told Oxygen.com. “It’s completely shocking and we’re so saddened that anyone can harm an animal.”
Hoffman said the Humane Society extended $200 in financial aid to the dog-owner to help cover Sophie’s medical bills.
Police noted that incidents “involving transients disturbing at the beach and citywide have doubled from the previous year.” The release also stated that police would be dedicating more resources to patrolling Hueneme Beach.
“I have never seen such a violent act of animal cruelty as this one,” Port Hueneme Police Chief Andrew Salinas told Oxygen.com.
Since the attack, Sophie’s owner and others have called on authorities to disband the homeless camps straddling the Ventura County shoreline.
McTaggart is being held at the Ventura County Main Jail and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, according to online jail records. He’s pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty and battery charges.
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