A Florida woman captured on video kicking a dog and choking it multiple times by pulling on a leash has been arrested on suspicion of felony animal cruelty, police said.
The video shot Friday was posted to Facebook by concerned citizen Vincent Minutello and has racked up nearly 3,000 comments. A man’s voice can be heard admonishing the woman not to treat the dog that way.
“You’re choking him,” the man’s voice says. “You’re hanging your dog.”
“I’m not hanging him,” the woman on the video says.
Michelle A. Sieber, 26, was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail, according to booking information from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Sieber is the daughter of Rea Sieber, a Tarpon Springs city commissioner, and lives in an RV often parked behind her mother’s wine shop.
Rea Sieber said by email Saturday night that her daughter has suffered from mental illness.
“Michelle has had a lot of trauma and has been dealing with mental issues for the past 7-8 years,” she said.
Rea Sieber said she has been subjected to “nasty comments” and harassment since the allegations against her daughter emerged Friday.
“My integrity, my business and my service to the City of Tarpon Springs has been attacked,” she said.
“Michelle is still in jail and I cannot bail her out,” she added. “There are many lies out there saying I’m using my influence to get her out. I spoke to her and she will be assigned an attorney and then wait to find out her fate.”
Tarpon Springs police said they arrested Michelle Sieber on Friday in nearby Clearwater after being contacted by Minutello and viewing the video.
“The suspect is apparently transient and resides in her camper type vehicle with two dogs,” Sgt. Robert Faugno said in a statement.
Rea Sieber said her daughter parked the RV behind her business but slept overnight in her home or in the homes of friends and her father.
Police said Minutello also claimed his girlfriend saw the suspect throw the dog aggressively into her vehicle Thursday night. Michelle Sieber’s dogs were seized and transferred to animal control officials, they said.