LCSO wins custody of dog from viral RaceTrac beating video

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The Lee County Sheriff's Office sues for custody of a pitbull named Sheela on Thursday
Sheeba, a pitbull whose owner, Marcus Chiddister, is accused of abusing her on video. Credit: WINK News

An abused dog will find a new home soon after a judge ruled in favor of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning. The agency wanted to keep the dog away from its owner who is suspected of abusing it.

A civil hearing was held for 22-year-old Marcus Chiddister, accused of beating Sheeba in the back of a car at a RaceTrac gas station in south Fort Myers. Chiddister was arrested and remains in custody after the video surfaced and went viral. He is not eligible for release because of probation violations.

The judge also ruled Chiddister can not have animals in the future.

Early in the hearing, Chiddister had an outburst when the video alleged to show him beating Sheeba was about to be played, saying, “Get me out of here, I’m going to have an anxiety attack!”

Chiddister began participating in the hearing from another room via Zoom due to his refusal to reenter the courtroom. After being given the opportunity to ask rebuttal questions of an LCOS detective, Chiddister disliked the answers, made rude comments and eventually swore loudly before throwing the iPad in frustration.

The judge eventually granted custody to the sheriff’s office.

“The citizens of this county can rest assured knowing that Sheeba is no longer going back to the environment where she can be abused neglected,” said Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

Leaders with the Gulf Coast Humane Society say they see animals being abused more often than they would like, from neglect to physical abuse, which is why they’re thankful Lee County has taken measures to crack down on the abusers.

GCHS says it doesn’t have an average of how many abused animals it brings in weekly because it pulls animals from other shelters and sometimes has to make educated guesses based on the animals’ behavior.

Brian Wierima, the community relations coordinator for GCHS, says you can usually tell based on scars or wounds on an animal’s body or if it’s afraid of attention, and he’s happy local law enforcement is doing all it can to stop people who want to hurt animals.

Marcus Chiddister (Credit: Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

“The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has definitely took a big first step of creating the Animal Cruelty Task Force, and they are backing up their words of going out and arresting these people,” Wierima said. “You know, in other areas of the U.S., that’s not the case, so people just get away with it, there’s no consequences. That would be the biggest deterrent, is there are consequences.”

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