TAMPA - An Orlando man remains in the Hillsborough County jail after he was arrested for reportedly attacking "Pinky" the flamingo on Tuesday at Busch Gardens.
Joseph Corrao, 45, was detained by Busch Gardens' security following the alleged attack. He faces a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Corrao was visiting the park with family – including his mother and three teenage children – when he reached into an animal pen in the Jambo Junction area, police said.
He picked up one flamingo and put it down without injuring it, police said. He then picked up a second flamingo and threw it to the ground with enough force to nearly sever its foot.
"I was over by where the eagle enclosure was. I heard a lot of screaming. I looked over and saw the guy holding a flamingo above his head, shaking it violently screaming, 'I got one, I got another one,' said Amy Wallace, who was celebrating her daughter's fourth birthday at the park, along with her husband and 5-year-old son. "Bird just flattened out, just like an egg. Splattered on the ground with its wings out and it started going into tremors."
Wallace says she ran to find security while her husband, a retired police officer, chased after Corrao along with another witness. She says Corrao's family was trying to usher him out of the park. Wallace's husband and the other witness kept him in the park until security arrived, Wallace said.
"I'm very sad." Amy's son, Anthony, said. "That guy threw the flamingo down and that was my favorite flamingo."
Police said other witnesses reported hearing Corrao's mother tell him to leave the birds alone.
Wallace went on to say Corrao treated the entire incident like a joke.
"He laughed out loud." She said.
Judge John Conrad scolded Corrao on Wednesday during his first appearance in court.
"It’s beyond senseless," Judge Conrad told Corrao. "It actually borders on depraved, in my opinion.”
"I don't know if you have other issues," the judge continued, "but I don't know who does that."
"You know what's good about it? He got to go to jail and he had to wear hand cuffs." 5-year-old Anthony told ABC Action News.
"If you're that violent you're going to take it out on an innocent flamingo, who is next or what is next?" Amy Wallace added.
Corrao served time in prison for two counts of animal cruelty and aggravated assault on a person 65 years or older with a deadly weapon. Records show he has been arrested more than a dozen times for crimes that include aggravated domestic violence, DUI, cocaine possession, burglary, fleeing police, and child abuse endangerment. Corrao was released from prison in July of 2015.
Busch Gardens confirmed that the flamingo, named Pinky, suffered traumatic injuries. According to the park, Pinky was immediately taken to the park's Animal Care Center where veterinarians made the decision to humanely euthanize her because of the severity of her injuries.
"Pinky was a beloved member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay family and made many appearances on behalf of the park's conservation and education efforts," the park said. "She will be sorely missed."
Corrao is being held on a $5,000 bond and as of Thursday morning he had not posted bail. He remains at the Hillsborough County Jail and his family and friends say they don't plan on bailing him out anytime soon.
SeaWorld's, the owner of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, statement:
“SeaWorld will strongly urge prosecution in this case, and for any person who engages in this sort of cruel behavior towards animals,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Pinky was a beloved member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay family, and she will be sorely missed. Our Ambassador team members are appalled by this incident, and I am sure they share my view that our state must have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of cruelty.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added: “People who abuse animals often don’t stop there, and pose a violent risk to the rest of society. That’s why we’ve worked to fortify the legal framework across the country to punish malicious animal cruelty as a serious offense.”