North Fort Myers woman arrested for abusing animals at pet grooming business in Sarasota

Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:
animal cruelty
Diana Stevens’ mugshot. Credit: Sarasota Police Department

A woman from North Fort Myers has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty and abuse while operating her pet grooming business in Sarasota.

According to the Sarasota Police Department, Diana Stevens, 41, was arrested on Tuesday following an investigation after employees working for her reported seeing her abuse several animals.

But it all started with Steven, as she was the one who put her business on Sarasota police’s radar.

“Stevens actually called police to report financial crime that she believed was happening at her business, that case is still open,” said Cynthia McLaughlin, Public Information Officer for the Sarasota Police Department. “Through the course of that investigation, our detectives were interviewing other employees, other groomers there, as they’re trying to gather information, they were alerted to this animal abuse and animal cruelty that was occurring by Stevens herself.”

According to detectives, the animals were allegedly abused by Stevens while she groomed them at the Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming Sarasota pet store located at 1129 S. Tamiami Trail.

Customers of pet grooming businesses reported their pets behaving abnormally after being picked up.

Three business employees gave an account of what they witnessed while working for Stevens, stating that she would strike dogs and shake cats, flipping and tethering the animals around their necks.

One employee stated that tethering a cat like Stevens did could have broken the animal’s neck.

Another employee saw a litter of bulldog puppies for sale held in unsanitary conditions, living in a box filled with feces and urine.

One puppy died due to being unsupervised in a bathing area, according to a witness.

The witness then continued to mention that Stevens found the dead puppy, placed it inside a cardboard box, and kept it within the store. The person was unsure what happened to the puppy.

Another account by a former store employee stated that while bathing a red doodle, the animal became afraid of the blowdryer and urinated on itself.

Stevens allegedly became angry with the animal and proceeded to grab it by the scruff. She then threw it into a bathtub for rewashing.

She then pinned the animal down to blow dry it, causing the animal to defecate itself.

The witness then intervened to help the animal.

“The anger as she’s, you know, berating these helpless animals when she’s supposed to be one of the best caretakers for animals in her position, setting an example for her employees, and instead she’s abusing helpless animals,” McLaughlin said. “It’s sick.”

According to officers, they have video evidence of Stevens abusing the animals, but the investigation is not over yet.

“We don’t know how long this has been going on,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t even know how long Stevens was owning this franchise location. So, we really need you know, current groomers, former groomers, former customers, current customers to give our detective or Crimestoppers a call. So, we can look into a pattern here and bring those charges forward.”

She was arrested and charged with five counts of aggravated animal abuse and five counts of animal cruelty, but has since been released from the Sarasota County Jail on Wednesday.

Stevens was taken back into custody after, for violating her probation in Lee County.

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