LEESBURG, Fla. — A Leesburg man faces animal cruelty charges after his dog drowned while wearing a 13-pound weighted diving belt Sunday evening, according to an arrest report.
Witnesses told police Dennys Luque, 44, was playing fetch with his German shepherd, which was wearing the weighted belt, by throwing the ball into Lake Harris from the boat ramp by the Venetian Cove Marina, the report said.
A witness told police after one throw shortly before 8 p.m., the dog did not resurface, prompting Luque and others to jump in the water to try to find and rescue the dog.
Witnesses said Luque stopped looking after five minutes and left the park, according to the arrest report.
Leesburg firefighters found the dog wearing the weighted belt at the bottom of the lake a little more than an hour later.
When police caught up with Luque, he told them he had conducted these weight training exercises with his dog numerous times and had to get out of the water because his muscles were cramping, according to the arrest report.
In an interview with Channel 9's Myrt Price, Luque said he is distraught about what happened.
"I tell my daughter, my little girl -- that's one of her best friends -- and she is devastated. My wife is devastated. I am devastated and I'm being treated like a criminal," Luque said.
Luque said his dog normally refuses to jump into the water if she is too tired, but that didn't happen Sunday.
He said she jumped in twice and got back out without any problems.
"She jumped the third time and she started to turn around and she started sinking. I started taking my shoes off and getting my phone off," he said.
Luque said he left the scene to go buy tools to try to retrieve his dog's body later.
"I jumped in the water. It was to murky and I couldn't see more than my elbow. Other people in the park, jumped in to help and they cannot see either," he said.
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