A serious intervention

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, July 14, 2011

There have surely been crimes committed in Suffolk in recent memory of a more heinous nature, but the brutal abuse of a kitten, allegedly at the hands of a 12-year-old boy, is one that has uniquely gripped and shaken the community since it was first reported at the end of May.

A group of children had been playing with the 7-week-old stray kitten in the 900 block of Brook Avenue, when, according to police reports, the 12-year-old showed up, grabbed the kitten, threw it against the wall and then began beating it with a stick. When the first boy finally pulled out a knife and threatened to stab the kitten, police said, a second boy, 9-year-old Jamarea Mills, intervened and knocked the knife away. Police were called to the scene, and the kitten, severely injured, was taken to a veterinarian for treatment.

Dubbed Little Heart because of the heart that was drawn on its cast at the vet’s office, the kitten captured the big hearts of people all over Hampton Roads as its story was told in the media. Suffolk Animal Control had received dozens of offers to adopt the kitten. But Little Heart died just a few days later.

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Investigators relying on the results of a necropsy have determined that the kitten’s death was a direct result of its injuries. Therefore, a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty has been upgraded to a felony charge. That news has pleased many of the people who have followed the story from its beginning.

The simple fact that animal abuse and neglect cases are pursued so vigorously in Suffolk is a testament to the commitment that Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson and his staff have for protecting animals from abusive situations and exploitative people. That the charges have been increased to a felony shows just how seriously the state takes the matter.

What’s left is for justice to take its course. A judge will hear the case. If the suspect is proved guilty, it will ultimately fall upon that judge to impart a sentence, and that will be a hard thing to do, considering the suspect’s age. By default, minors are treated differently by the legal system, and there is likely to be a further call by the defense for mercy because he is so young.

Citizens of Suffolk want a fair trial, and they only want this boy convicted if he is, in fact, guilty. But if that happens, mercy should be heavily tempered with justice. The frightening implications of such a crime call for a serious and lengthy intervention into the life of one who would commit it.