Detectives are still following up on leads after finding a dead dog in a cage that was pulled from the water just off a Lower Keys bridge last month, but they said that without any new tips the case may go cold.
Meanwhile, business leaders, community activists and animal lovers have stepped up and donated reward money for information -- $1,600 and growing.
A jogger on Boca Chica Road called deputies at 5:47 p.m. Sept. 20 after seeing a submerged dog cage in about 3 feet of water just off the first bridge separating Big Coppitt and Geiger keys. A necropsy indicated the dog was between 5 years old and 6 years old and likely drowned in the cage, said Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin.
The Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals figured the dog was a 30-pound female cocker spaniel mix.
The dog was tan or white in color with a white belly. It wore a purple fabric collar without identification. In the collapsible metal kennel often used to crate-train dogs, there also was a water bowl and purple blanket.
Detectives tracked down the cage manufacturer at modernpuppies.com and the company provided four leads, three of which included owners who still had their dog or cage or purchased the cage after the incident, Herrin said. A third lead is still being followed up, she added.
Detectives also tracked down a lead involving a black Dodge Charger that someone reported seeing stopped near the bridge around the day of the incident, but that lead didn't yield any results either, Herrin said.
"They've been working this case and so far none of the leads have panned out," Herrin said.
The culprit would likely face misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, Herrin said.
Dog lovers have not given up on finding the culprit.
Among them are workers at First State Bank of the Florida Keys.
The bank donated $500 to Crime Stoppers and that donation was matched by an anonymous Key West businessman, said the bank's senior vice president and marketing director Don Lanman.
Bank employees were first notified of the grass-roots effort of Chad Gardner, owner of Key Largo-based Printing Plus, who is printing reward posters that will be available at all 11 First State Bank locations.
Those printers were working with Marathon resident Kim McConnell, who started crueltyfreekeys.com. There are other players up and down the Keys, said all three animal lovers.
"Everyone I talked to was just so bothered by this, and we're such a dog-friendly community," McConnell said. "A lot of people wanted to help and the only thing that really surprises me is that there hasn't been more leads."
Lanman and many of the bank's employees agreed, he said.
"Everyone really wanted to take action after something that looks like nothing more than a pure mean-spirited act," Lanman said.
"We're going to ask businesses that work with us if they want some of the posters from Printing Plus. It's heartening to see our community come together."
McConnell and Herrin both said that the case may very well come down to someone coming forward after noticing a neighbor's dog missing or some thing similar.
"Just the notion of somebody throwing a dog in a cage in the ocean makes my skin crawl," Gardner said. "We saw the campaign online and decided to help." If the reward money goes unused, it will be donated to the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, McConnell said.
Detectives ask anyone with information about the dog to call the Sheriff's Office at 305-289-2351.