SPCA investigates kitten cruelty

The kittens saved from children on Saturday, safe and recovering at the SPCA. They should be available for adoption in three months. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

The SPCA is caring for four one-and-a-half week old kittens after a group of kids abused them and lit two on fire.

On Saturday, a member of the public came to the Prince Albert SPCA with a disturbing story. A group of kids, seemingly aged seven to 12, were tossing around kittens in a park by St. Mary High School.

“He saw the kids throwing these kittens two or three feet up in the air,” said Ashlee Bober, an animal protection officer at the SPCA. “He was able to convince them to give him one out of the five. He then brought it here right away.”

Bylaw officers were dispatched to the scene. They tracked down the kids, and tried to negotiate the release of the other three kittens. Bober said they were “basically bribing them with goodies.” But only one of the kittens was freed.

Those first two kittens were in bad shape, Bober said. They both had singed whiskers, and one had a burnt nose and paw pads.

“It started to blister right away,” she said.

They’ve already given the little guy a name: Bernie.

Hours later, a resident called bylaw to turn in two more kittens. That left one kitten. Bober and another officer launched their own investigation to find it. It took them to a neighbourhood in the West Flat and an abandoned house where, according to a witness, a mother cat had been nursing a litter.

“There were originally eight taken from that house,” Bober said. “But there were only five ever seen.”

The fifth kitten eventually ended up with another animal protection group, but that new information meant three more could still be out there.

The SPCA found a mother cat who was willing to take in the new arrivals. Bernie had a hard time suckling because of his burnt nose, which seemed to cause him a great deal of pain. Eventually, though, the SPCA managed to get some food in all four rescues.

“They have full bellies due to their adopted mother,” Bober said, “so they are doing well.”

Shelter operations manager Liana Maloney said the abusers have still not been identified. It’s doubtful they could be charged with a criminal offence, as children under 12 are not liable to criminal sanctions. But she still wants to give them a good talking to.

“We’re just worried about the kids. What kind of future they will have,” she said. “They may not even understand… but we do know the link between violence toward animals and domestic violence as adults.”

Bernie’s story has already prompted support from outside the province. A woman in Toronto pledged a $500 reward for information on the case. She said it’s up to Maloney to distribute it as she likes.

“Someone knows something. And if they know who did this, please step forward and do the right thing to help (find) whoever tortured these defenceless kittens,” said the donor, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Maloney said the case is a good lesson in why residents should spay and neuter their cats, since feral animals might be more vulnerable to abuse. She also said that parents and educators should feel free to call the SPCA (at 763-6110) for help talking to kids with troubling behaviour towards animals.

“We are more than happy as the SPCA to come out and talk to any children’s groups,” she said, “to talk to them about animal care, dog safety, cat safety, feeding, anything.”

The four kittens, including little Bernie, will stay in the SPCA for the next three months for vaccinations and veterinary care. Then they’ll be up for adoption.

Maloney hopes more people pay heed to their story, and that they never look the other way in the face of animal abuse.

“They’re all living things, and you can’t become complacent,” she said. “They have feelings and they can suffer just like anything else.

“Know what your kids are doing.”