NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Days after three Fernandina Beach teenagers were charged with felony cruelty to animals after a video surfaced on social media of them throwing a bunny against a wall, the grandmother of two of the girls told News4Jax that it wasn't the first time the rabbit was hurt.
It was just the first time it was caught on camera.
The rabbit, which has a fractured leg, is being treated at Nassau County Animal Control.
The disturbing video that prompted the investigation has been viewed thousands of times on social media.
News4Jax is not showing the entire video, which includes images of the teens, ages 13 and 14, throwing the rabbit against a wall multiple times.
The video shows the girls laughing and even kicking the bunny as it tries to get away.
The Nassau County Sheriff's Office said it received numerous complaints after the video was posted to Snapchat.
The grandmother of two of the teens, who asked not to be identified, said she is strict with her granddaughters, whose names were not released by authorities.
“Children, you raise them one way in your home, and when they get form under your directions, there's no telling what they will do,” the grandmother said. “I was just appalled, because what got me was they were supposed to be in one place, and they ended up somewhere else. That's how they got in trouble.”
The teens' grandmother said the girls went behind her back to visit the third girl in the video at her home. She said when they were questioned about the incident, they admitted it wasn't the first time it had happened.
“They are like, 'This has been happening a lot,' but at this point the kids got caught,” she said. “They said that she does this all the time.”
The grandmother said her granddaughters are back at home and being punished.
“All their electronics (were taken away), no TV. They are in their rooms, only to do certain things out of their room and then they are back in their room,” she said. “They are really sorry, because of the fact they didn't think it was that serious.”
Audrey Dearborn, a licensed mental health counselor, said that in general, teens who abuse animals often come from homes where there’s already abuse, and crimes against animals can lead to crimes against humans in the future.
“A lot of times these are kids that have some social issues,” Dearborn said. “They can’t seem to make friends or have activities that there is some common bond in the violent act.”
Many comments on social media questioned the upbringing of the girls and what could come next.
"All of these girls need to stay in the juvenile detention facility for a long time. They are a danger to society and this is just the beginning,” wrote Linda Sue.
"Really? .... Clearly the parents haven't taught these beasts anything," commented Ann Campbell.
But the girls' grandmother disputed that, pointing to her strict rearing of her family.
“I have raised eight of my grandchildren, so I mean, how are you going to blame a parent?” she said.
She said the girls have never been in serious trouble before this.
“Just little incidents at school, fighting at school,” she said. “You know, kids fight at school, but that was taken care of.”
Now the grandmother has to call Nassau County to get the girls a court date scheduled to face their felony charges.
“They were just getting into something someone else was doing but they're finding out it wasn’t funny,” she said.
The bunny should be available for adoption after its injuries have healed.