Two boys, aged 11 and 14, have been convicted of “barbaric” animal cruelty after being seen kicking a hedgehog to death.
The pair, who from Sunderland, were found to have numerous videos of other acts of animal cruelty recorded on their phones – including a dog being goaded into kill a rabbit and pigeons.
The two offenders, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were charged with five animal cruelty offences, including causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, cruel treatment of a wild animal and killing a wild bird.
Hedgehog put down after being doused in petrol and set on fire
They both pleaded guilty to all five offences after appearing before magistrates in South Tyneside on Thursday and were referred to the youth offending team.
The juveniles are now expected to be ordered to do unpaid work at a wildlife charity in a bid to educate them following their heartless behaviour.
The hedgehog was a familiar visitor to locals in the Sunderland area and had become quite tame.
One resident told reporters: “We called him the Little Man and he had grown quite confident to the point where he was starting to take food out of my hand.
“What they have done is disgusting.”
The boys injured the animal so severely it had to be put to sleep by a vet.
Wildlife officer PC Peter Baker, of Northumbria Police, said: "We are a nation of animal lovers and there can be little doubt that the boys’ behaviour is barbaric and totally unacceptable.
"These investigations are never easy, and it is clear that the two individuals not only showed a total disregard for the welfare of these animals, but also took a degree of satisfaction from filming their criminal activity."
Dog owner cruelly yanks dog by collar until it chokes in shocking animal abuse
"They might not have given a second’s thought to the potential consequences of their actions that night, not to mention the unnecessary suffering that they caused to a number of animals.
“However, they now have criminal records that will be with them for the rest of their lives and can both count themselves lucky that they have avoided a potentially more severe punishment due to their young age.
"I hope this acts as a reminder to any pet owner or member of the community that those who fail to ensure their pet’s welfare is met or who cause unnecessary suffering to an animal could face criminal action."
Scenes of animal cruelty being filmed on mobile phones and circulated on social media have become all too common.
West Midlands police launched a manhunt in September after sick video emerged of a cat being tortured surfaced on SnapChat.
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