Earlier this year, footage of a young Bosnian girl hurling helpless puppies into a river horrified millions — and made news around the globe. Last week, Bosnian police announced that no charges will be brought against her.
Typically when I learn of an episode of an animal cruelty , my reaction is threefold — and pretty straightforward: anguished heartbreak for the animal who’s been mistreated, deep disgust for humankind, and unmitigated rage toward the perpetrator . But when such an act is committed by a child, my rage turns to something more complicated, and I’m not sure there’s a name for it.
As sickening as it is to hear about children or adolescents demonstrating such an alarming absence of empathy, I try to remind myself that the perpetrator is most likely a victim as well. Best case scenario, the child lacks a basic level of parental involvement – a deficit that led her to believe torturing animals (and to seemingly enjoy the experience) is acceptable. At worst, the child herself witnessed or suffered extreme violence at the hands of another, which she then went on to emulate.
According to the New York Daily News , “Authorities reportedly have let the matter go because the girl…is too young to face a judge.” A readers’ poll to the side of the article asks whether you agree: “Should a person’s age prevent them from facing punishment or fines in cases of animal cruelty.” Nearly 70% of those who answered said yes, concurring with authorities.
Don’t get me wrong: Prosecuting the girl isn’t what I’m advocating. But “letting the matter go” is not an option we, as humans, can afford. Intervention and rehabilitation is essential for a child who can so cavalierly – and intentionally – inflict such pain. Not because the child will grow up to do it to humans (although the likelihood is great that she will), but because she’ll do it to other animals.
And at least here in our country, we have enough trouble preventing adults from exacting such cruelty .