By Cortney Peltz

  • Florida reptile storeowner allegedly put a bearded dragon in his mouth and slapped employees with the large lizard, police say
  • Benjamin Siegel, 40, was charged with battery and animal cruelty
  • ‘Mr. Siegel cares very much about animals,’ his attorney says

A Florida reptile store owner is facing charges after allegedly putting a bearded dragon in his mouth and slapping employees with the large lizard.

Police say video surveillance captured Benjamin Siegel throwing the bearded dragon in the air, placing it in his mouth and striking employees with the reptile multiple times, according to a Broward County complaint affidavit.

The 40-year-old unnecessarily tormented animals, resulting in excessive and repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to the animal, police state in the report.

Siegel also allegedly threw Gatorade on store employees during the January 2 incident, authorities say.

He was arrested on charges of battery and causing cruel death, pain or suffering to an animal.

“Mr. Siegel is a long-term business owner in Fort Lauderdale who cares very much about animals,” attorney Kenneth David Padowitz told HLN.

Padowitz said Siegel is not guilty of the charges against him and that he will be vigorously defended in court.

Siegel is also facing charges of possession of cocaine stemming from a Christmas Eve arrest, according to court records.

He is being held at the Broward County jail on $36,000 bond.

A court date has not yet been scheduled.