Woman, 20, Photographed Riding Sea Turtle On Florida Beach Faces Five Years In Prison For Animal Cruelty

A 20-year-old woman, Stephanie Marie Moore, is being held on a $2,000 bond after she was accused of riding a sea turtle on a Florida beach. The woman allegedly mounted the sea turtle for a photograph as she partied on the Florida beach back in July. The image was first posted to Snapchat but was later uploaded to Twitter and Facebook. The photograph of the beach debauchery eventually made its way to the police who immediately began searching for the woman illegally riding the sea turtle. Two months later, when responding to a disturbance at a home, police recognized Moore as the woman from the photograph and arrested her on a complaint of animal abuse for “molesting a marine turtle.” She now faces up to five years in prison for disturbing the protected sea creature.

The Daily Mail reports that 20-year-old Stephanie Marie Moore allegedly hopped on the back of a sea turtle while partying at a Florida beach. Someone snapped a photo of the turtle ride and subsequently posted it to Snapchat. Though Snapchat photos are supposed to self-destruct, a screenshot of the image was secured before it was deleted. It was then posted to Twitter and Facebook. As the photo circulated across social media, animal rights organizations in Melbourne, Florida, began investigating the case along with the local police station. However, the woman in the photograph was never identified.

However, that all changed when police responded to a disturbance at a local home. When police responded to the house they immediately recognized Moore from the sea turtle riding photo and arrested her on suspicion of animal abuse.

Riding sea turtle
Image of a woman riding a sea turtle on a Florida beach which was posted to Facebook. Police allege the woman in the photograph is Moore.

According to Florida Today, Moore was just one of two women photographed “riding” the sea turtle. However, police have yet to identify the second woman. David Hochberg, chairman of the board for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society in Indialantic, says he is very happy that the woman has been arrested for the sea turtle disturbance as he didn’t want the wrong message to be sent to the public.

“I was hoping that some justice would be served, because if they didn’t do anything at all that sends out that very wrong message to a lot of people. I was outraged and disgusted and infuriated when this first came out.”

Though the incident was “disgusting,” Hochberg says that good can come from the sea turtle abuse. Hochberg says that Moore now has the opportunity to be educated on the plight of the sea turtle and to better understand why what she did was so wrong. He says Moore could then turn around and spread the word about the dangers of interacting with the endangered sea creatures.

It was noted that despite the learning opportunity, Moore faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the turtle ride.

Do you think Moore should be given a second chance? Should community service in sea turtle conservation be considered as a possible punishment instead of jail time?

[Image Credit: Mugshot/ Melbourne Police Department]