The president of a local hunt club was arrested last month for shooting a dog and then dragging the animal two miles down a country road - tied by a rope to his vehicle.

Originally charged with a felony, James Sousa, 48, was arrested on a warrant for animal cruelty. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Doug Berryman says he was notified last week the felony charge was being changed to a misdemeanor by the State Attorney's Office. He says whether or not the animal suffered is a determining factor in deciding the level of a charge.

Sousa is the president of the Cabin Creek Hunt Club.

Berryman says Sousa shot the hunting dog in the shoulder with a Remington .270 rifle, killing the dog on or about Dec. 10th. Officials believe the dog was dead when Sousa tied it to his vehicle. A blood trail was left during the dragging, indicating the animal was dragged immediately following the shooting.

A report filed by Berryman says Sousa killed the animal because loose dogs in the area have been "running the deer" on the property of the hunting club. Sousa told the officer he heard three dogs running deer, but did not see them. Reports say he got out of his stand, looking for the dogs and heard them around his camp. He went there, saw one dog walking around, "not doing anything" and he shot the dog from the road, the dog fell dead at the corner of his porch. He got some rope, tied it to the dog and dragged it to Munson Hwy. at Indian Ford Road. He left the dog there "to make a statement to those people who are constantly running dogs illegally on his property."

The dog was one of three hunting dogs belonging to a man living on Indian Ford Rd. The dogs escaped from the pen at home and did not come back. While the owner was looking for his animals, he found the dead dog.

Officials with the FWC are addressing the problem of hunting dogs on unauthorized property.