Police are considering animal cruelty charges after a group
of teenagers appeared to force a kitten to inhale the
contents of a makeshift bong.
A photo of the incident, posted to Facebook by a 14-year-old
Nelson boy, shows a group of teenagers holding the kitten's
mouth over a plastic bottle which appears to have been
converted into a smoking device.
Nelson police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said an investigation
was launched after members of the public alerted the Nelson
police Facebook page on Monday.
The incident was believed to have happened several weeks ago.
Ms Dunn said police had spoken to two of the youths, who had
denied cannabis was involved.
"We're still piecing together what has actually happened,"
"We need to speak to the other two people who were involved
to work out what has actually happened. At this stage we
don't know that there was cannabis involved."
Ms Dunn said police could not yet say whether any charges
would be laid.
However, they had been speaking with the SPCA to see whether
there was "potential ill-treatment of an animal".
Ms Dunn agreed the photo was disturbing.
"We've had a pretty significant response from the community,
coming to us and expressing their distaste for what these
kids have done on Facebook, so there's been a lot of people
very unhappy with their behaviour.
"Whether or not there's any actual criminal culpability, we
don't know that yet."
Nelson SPCA inspector Craig Crowley said the incident was
"But in reality, a lot of the blame should be laid at the
foot of their parents - 14-year-old kids doing this sort of
thing is just a lack of parental control."
Mr Crowley said under the Animal Welfare Act, parents were
responsible for the actions of children under the age of 16.
He said the maximum penalty for ill-treatment of an animal
was a $10,000 fine or six months in prison.
The SPCA's Bob Kerridge said the boys deserve the punishment
he hopes may be inflicted on them over the "sickening act of
cruelty against a defenceless kitten.