The owner of a Delray Beach, Florida reptile shop has been arrested on battery and cruelty to animals charges on Monday after he allegedly struck employees with a live lizard.
According to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, 40-year-old Ben Siegel put a bearded dragon into his mouth and began to strike employees with it. The incident was recorded on store surveillance cameras.
Siegel then reportedly threw the lizard into the air and swung it around several times, said a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report.
“The defendant did unnecessarily torment the animal, handling the animal in a cruel and/or inhumane manner and intentionally committed an act to the animal which results in excessive and repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to the animal,” said the report.
Siegel appeared in court on Monday and was held on $4,500 bond. He is charged with one count of cruelty to animals and two counts of battery.
A bearded dragon is one of eight lizard species called a Pogona. They can vary in size and lifespan according to species. Some bearded dragons can grow to be up to two feet in length.
This is not the first time Siegel and his shop have been in the news. In 2012, a 32-year-old man collapsed and died after competing in a roach-eating contest at Siegel’s store as part of a contest to win a female ivory ball python.
Witnesses said Edward Archbold began to vomit moments after the contest ended, then collapsed outside the shop. Paramedics on the scene were unable to revive him. An autopsy found that roach parts had become lodged in Archbold’s airway and choked him to death.