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Tampa police arrest Pasco deputy in fatal animal abuse case, department says

A necropsy was performed on the 3-year-old cat, “and markings were found on his body indicating that he had been stomped,” authorities said.
This undated photo provided by the Tampa Police Department shows a 3-year-old male cat named Axel. Police arrested a Pasco deputy Wednesday after they say he abused Axel, who belonged to his girlfriend, and the cat died from his injuries.
This undated photo provided by the Tampa Police Department shows a 3-year-old male cat named Axel. Police arrested a Pasco deputy Wednesday after they say he abused Axel, who belonged to his girlfriend, and the cat died from his injuries. [ Photo provided / Tampa Police Department ]
Published Sep. 1|Updated Sep. 2

A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested Wednesday after police say he abused his girlfriend’s cat at the couple’s apartment in Tampa, resulting in the cat’s death.

About a month after Eric Harris and his girlfriend moved into an apartment together, they argued on Aug. 21 about the woman’s two cats “defecating on the floor outside of their litter box and jumping onto the counters and furniture,” the Tampa Police Department said in a news release Wednesday night.

When the woman got home around 7 p.m. the next night, both cats were hiding in their crate, according to the release.

She pulled 3-year-old Axel out of the crate and saw that he had broken, bloody toenails on his back paws, and his back legs were preventing him from standing, police said.

The woman took her cat to her regular vet, who examined Axel’s injuries and told her the cat should be taken to an animal hospital, the release said. Axel died later that day.

The vet contacted the police. Detectives say when they questioned Harris, the deputy denied doing anything to harm Axel and said nothing had been wrong with the cat while his girlfriend was away from home.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement performed a necropsy — which is an autopsy for animals — on Aug. 26 and found evidence of severe hemorrhaging, internal organ bruising and injuries to Axel’s face, including a missing tooth, according to the release, “and markings were found on his body indicating that he had been stomped.”

Authorities ruled Axel’s cause of death to be blunt force trauma.

Tampa police arrested Harris at his apartment on Waters Avenue on Wednesday. He faces a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals, a third-degree felony.

Arrest records show Harris was booked into Orient Road Jail around 7:30 p.m. and released one hour and 20 minutes later after posting a $2,000 cash bond.

Pasco Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Amanda Hunter said Harris was hired as a patrol deputy in January 2019. He was immediately fired upon his arrest, she said.

His personnel file shows he was the subject of a “supervisory investigation” last year when it was discovered he had filled out a speeding ticket for someone using the wrong driver’s license number. As a result, the courthouse processed the citation against the wrong person and, when the ticket wasn’t paid after 30 days, that woman’s license wrongfully was suspended.

Harris’ mugshot has not been made public by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office due to its interpretation of state public records law, which allows agencies the option of withholding information that could identify a former or current law enforcement officer.

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