/ 20 July 2006

SPCA investigates teens for mouse ‘snuff movie’

Three Randburg teenage girls and a boy are being questioned by animal anti-cruelty authorities after they allegedly tormented a mouse with a lit cigarette before spraying it with an aerosol can and setting it on fire. The group was caught out after a video recorded on a cellphone landed at the offices of the the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Randburg.

”The national council of the SPCA was horrified and disgusted to see the torture of an animal recorded on the cellphone of a 15-year-old female,” SPCA senior inspector Phillip Roberts said.

”The ‘snuff movie’ also included the sound of juvenile girls shrieking with laughter as the small animal was tormented with a lit cigarette and set alight.”

He said the mouse, bought at a Northgate pet shop, was confined in a cardboard box.

”The recording goes on to show the mouse running around inside the box as it is being sprayed with an aerosol, and then set alight with a pocket cigarette lighter,” Roberts said.

”As the mouse is being burnt, a female voice is heard on the footage saying: ‘I’m filming.”’

He said the mouse was still alive when the recording ended.

”Investigations continue but it is confirmed that criminal charges will be laid against the girls. There is no way that this incident can be excused, condoned or overlooked in any way,” Roberts said.

He said the SPCA believed it would be failing in its duty to society if it didn’t lay charges. It also appeared the teenagers had tortured another mouse just before buying the one they filmed.

”The footage of the torture of a defenceless animal, purchased from a pet shop specifically for this purpose was a knowing, calculated and callous action. At any point, any one of them could have stopped what was happening, but the sound effects reveal they egged each other on to further and greater cruelty,” Roberts said.

He said investigations into the family backgrounds of those involved in the abuse will also be conducted.

”Liaison is taking place with psychologists and psychiatrists as well as educational authorities.”

They faced a fine of up to R20 000 or four months’ imprisonment if they were brought before a court and found guilty.

”The public prosecutor still has to decide whether to prosecute them or not, and it will then be up to the magistrate to impose a sentence if found guilty.”

Roberts said the ”horrific” abuse of a defenceless animal was not the first carried out by ”legal minors”.

”In 2005 there were several serious cases of animal abuse by young adults attending schools or places of learning.

”This most recent event encapsulates and demonstrates what the SPCA movement refers to as ‘first strike’… the scientifically-proven theory that those who abuse animals, especially in their youth, are likely to go on to other violent crimes committed against the vulnerable in our communities,” he said. – Sapa