Authorities in Florida said Monday that they had arrested a 36-year-old male after a bystander caught him fornicating with a dog before fleeing and damaging the surrounding area, including a church nativity display.
Chad Mason of Orlando was arrested on various charges by Clearwater Police Department on Sunday evening, including sexual activity involving animals, two counts of lewd or lascivious exhibition, two counts of exposure of sexual organs, criminal mischief, and criminal mischief to a place of worship, police said.
Authorities said Mason was seen having sex with the dog, which according to local media was described in the arrest affidavit as a goldendoodle. The dog was allegedly owned by someone Mason knew, and they had allowed him to take it for a walk in an apartment complex.
Police said Mason then proceeded to have sex with the goldendoodle in front of witnesses, which included adults and a juvenile under 16 years old.
“When he was confronted by someone at the apartment complex there, he ran from the scene and began to wreak havoc in the surrounding area,” police said.
Mason reportedly entered Northwood Presbyterian Church, knocked over a nativity display, broke several potted plants, and tossed children’s toys from the playground area before fleeing into a nearby neighborhood, where he destroyed a mailbox and attempted to steal a car.
Officers apprehended Mason at that point and later booked him into Pinellas County Jail.
Officials estimated about $400 in damages to the church, according to local media.
The New York Post reported that Mason bonded out of jail and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.
Florida senators unanimously passed a bill in 2021 that increased penalties for bestiality from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony and banned pornography depicting people having sex with animals, which would also result in a third-degree felony.
Those convicted of either offense could face up to five years or a permanent ban from owning, possessing, or controlling an animal or residing in the same household where an animal also lives.
Offenders are also prohibited from working or volunteering anywhere animals are present.
Criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law write that other penalties could include a prison term of up to one year and a $1,000 fine.
Democratic Sen. Lauren Book told The Associated Press that lawmakers passed the bestiality law after a criminal case near her South Florida district exemplified the link between animal abuse and child abuse.
Book said the case included a veterinarian suspected of abusing boys who was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and the sexual abuse of animals in his care.
“This shocking case reinforces the fact that sexual abuse of animals is the number one predictor for the sexual abuse of children,” Book said.