Three Men Charged With Animal Cruelty After Horrific Shark Dragging Video
Michael Wenzel, Robert Lee Benac and Spencer Heintz, the three men who shot a video of themselves dragging a live shark behind their speedboat in Florida in July 2017 – which subsequently went viral due to the outrage it caused amongst the dive community, marine conservation and animal rights communities – have been charged with animal cruelty by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. .
According to a press release from the FWC, the charges resulted from a four-month-long investigation into the video 'and other disturbing images on social media involving shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources.' During the course of the investigation, FWC officers conducted exhaustive research into the suspects' social media and interviewed a number of people, including shark experts, which confirmed the men's activities as criminal resulting in two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty for each of the suspects, and the additional misdemeanour charge of 'illegal shark-take' for Wenzel and Benac.
'As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,' said Commission Chairman Bo Rivard. 'We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our law enforcement investigators worked with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication. It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behaviour involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.'
'The State Attorney’s Office is committed to holding these men accountable for having engaged in such senseless and unjustifiable animal cruelty. We thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their work in investigating these crimes, and we stand with them, along with Florida’s fishing and hunting communities, and all those who cherish our precious natural resources, in condemning the torture of our marine wildlife,' said Florida State Attorney Andrew H Warren.
The charges could result in a fine up to $10,000 and five years in jail according to the FWC.
The video that led to the charges can be found in our original report – WARNING: Disturbing viewing