The Tampa Police Department has arrested Eric Harris, a Pasco Sheriff's Office deputy, on a charge of felony animal cruelty.
On August 21, 2022, Harris was involved in an argument with his then-girlfriend of six months whom he'd recently moved into a Tampa apartment with a month prior. Harris was upset over his girlfriend's two cats defecating on the floor outside of their litter box and jumping onto the counters and furniture.
On August 22, when Harris' girlfriend returned home to their apartment shortly after 7 PM, she found both cats hiding in their crate. When she pulled one of the animals from the crate, a 3-year-old male cat named "Axel," she observed that the toenails on his rear paws were broken and bloody. The cat was acting oddly and unable to stand using his rear legs. She immediately took the cat to his veterinarian located in Sarasota.
Upon further examination of the injuries, the veterinarian recommended that Axel be taken to an animal hospital for urgent care. The cat died from its injuries the same day. Due to the severity of the cat's injuries, the doctor contacted law enforcement.
After being questioned by detectives, Harris denied any wrongdoing and claimed the cat was fine during the time that he was alone in the apartment with him.
On August 26, a necropsy was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which found that Axel suffered severe hemorrhaging and bruising to internal organs, facial injuries, including a missing tooth, and markings were found on his body indicating that he had been stomped. His cause of death was ruled as blunt force trauma.
On August 31, Harris was arrested by the Tampa Police Department at his home. He is now facing a charge of felony animal cruelty.