A man was jailed Tuesday after police said he was caught on Duval Street with three large iguanas whose legs were “hog-tied” with duct tape as they dangled from his bicycle’s handlebars by wire.
Jeremy Dugas, 35, of Key West, remained in the Stock Island jail Wednesday in lieu of $5,000 bond, facing a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.
“The three iguanas had their front and back legs taped with duct tape, with a metal wire running to each set of legs, which acted as a handle,” wrote Officer Frank Betz in an incident report.
“Dugas told me he planned to eat them,” wrote Betz, who was on bicycle patrol when a woman flagged him down. Dugas said he caught the iguanas on College Road near the Key West Golf Club. In Florida, it’s perfectly legal to kill an iguana and serve it for dinner. But state law forbids the torment of animals.
At about 2 p.m. Tuesday, police were summoned by a passerby to the 1200 block of Duval Street to find a man seated on a bicycle outside the Banana Cafe. Betz noticed that the man had three iguanas bound by tape and attached to a wire. When the passerby who flagged down police heard Dugas say the iguanas were for food, she “became confrontational” with Dugas and told officers he had told her he was selling them. She pointed to some diners at the Banana Cafe, which Betz interviewed. Two people told him they had overheard Dugas talking about plans to sell the iguanas, Betz wrote in his report.
Florida Keys SPCA’s lead humane investigator Mitchell Smith was called to the scene by police. Smith pronounced the way Dugas was transporting the three iguanas “would be considered cruelty” by his agency. “They were the big orange, four-foot iguanas and they were definitely wild,” said Smith, who believes Dugas was trying to sell them. “They were bound behind their backs, front legs up around the back.” Smith confirmed that the iguanas were attached to a wire “like a sling.”
Betz said he helped Smith in removing the tightly bound duct tape from the legs of the iguanas, which were then placed in a cage for departure with Smith. “During the removal of the tape, the iguanas remained completely still as if in shock,” Betz reported.
Dugas, who the police report stated works as a line cook at Blue Heaven, told Betz he was not selling the iguanas and only told the inquisitive woman that so she would leave him alone, according to the incident report. Betz wrote, “Dugas told me he did not believe there was a problem with what he was doing, but also acknowledged the public outcry from several passersby who saw the condition of the iguanas.”
The Florida Keys SPCA took custody of the three iguanas, which were in good health on Wednesday, said executive director Tammy Fox. Fox acknowledged that Dugas’ possession of iguanas wasn’t illegal. “You cannot duct tape their arms with wire,” Fox said.
As for the sale of iguanas on Duval Street, the city governs such commerce by special permits and at the very least a business tax receipt. “He can’t be doing it on the city’s right-of-way,” said Jim Young, the city’s code compliance director. “We don’t give out permits to street artists and performers to sell iguanas. He’d have to be on private property.”