ORANGE PARK, Fla. - The video of two Orange Park teenage girls torturing and killing a gopher tortoise has brought more attention to animal abuse in general and the power of social media.
Dr. Christian Broadhurst, the head veterinarian at Clay Humane Animal Clinic, said his office has been flooded with outrage. He hopes that one good thing can come out of all of this: to raise awareness of just how often animal abuse happens and the consequences it can have on youth.
"It is definitely a cry for help when children hurt animals," Broadhurst said. "They need help. They need help themselves. They're a danger to themselves and the community at large."
Broadhurst said his clinic has no involvement in this case but has heard loud and clear the outrage over the video.
The teens posted the video on Facebook and now could face felony charges. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Attorney's Office are investigating.
Broadhurst said these girls need help before something worse happens.
"There's such an established link between human and animal violence, humane education," Broadhurst said. "Teaching kids compassion for animals will go a long way as an investment in our future society."
As disturbing as it is, Broadhurst said the girls posting the video is helpful to the investigation. He said social media is actually helping the cause of spreading awareness of animal abuse.
"It's horrible we had to see it, but without it we would have never known that this happened," Broadhurst said.
Social media expert Dwann Rollinson agrees and believes the video will affect the punishment of the teens in a negative way.
"What you say is what you get," Rollinson said. "The words they say are real the passion from what it looks like in what they're trying to hurt a threatened species, is really in our face there. So video nowadays can be used in court. Outside court it can be all of that because it's real and it's happening and this is the digital age we're living in."
In August 2010, a 12-year-old Orange Park boy was arrested for animal cruelty charges after killing five farm animals and mutilating several others. He was sentenced to 18 to 36 months in a maximum-risk juvenile facility followed by probation until he's 21.
In August 2011, an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old were arrested for animal cruelty charges after shooting and killing several cats. The 18-year-old was sentenced to 120 days in jail and it's unclear what happened in the other case.
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