Two Bradley County, Tennessee, teens are facing animal cruelty charges after a graphic video surfaced of one of them fatally beating a dog with a stick while the other recorded the act.
The teens, both 16, were charged following an investigation by the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, according to a news release issued Wednesday. Cleveland police also received reports about the deadly beating recorded on video.
The incident, in which the dog was killed by repeated blows with a stick, happened on Carter Road in southeast Bradley County near the Polk County line.
The sheriff's office received the complaints of the beating Tuesday and social media erupted with outrage from local residents, animal lovers and advocates calling for harsh punishments and jail time for the alleged offenders.
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Investigators from the sheriff's office and the police department worked cooperatively to gather information in determining the suspects involved, the news releases said.
"The person who can be seen in the video striking the dog was identified, as well as the person recording the incident," spokesperson Alana Shell said in the release. "Both juveniles were acting together and are 16 years of age. Investigators from the sheriff's office and the police department located the juveniles and interviewed them at the Judicial Complex."
The alleged offenders' names have not been released because of their age, authorities said.
The juvenile seen committing the fatal assault, as well as the person recording it, were charged with aggravated animal cruelty and intentional killing of an animal. Both juveniles were transported to the Bradley County Juvenile Detention Center, Shell said.
Shell said the dog's name and owner are unknown.
"As the initial reports came in, my office and Cleveland Police Department Chief Mark Gibson were willing to work together alongside District Attorney Steve Crump to achieve a resolution, especially in a matter affecting the public to this degree," Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson said in the release.
The arraignment for both juveniles is set for Thursday in Bradley County Juvenile Court, authorities said.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office worked through the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County to set up cremation services for the dead dog, according to officials.
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The video posted online has since been removed, but not before a number of Bradley County residents saw the disturbing footage. In one copy of the video, the person with the stick is beside a pickup truck on what appears to be a roadside where the dog is sitting, apparently unable to walk. The video segment shows the person viciously striking the dog six times before it falls onto its side and then four more times before the video ends with him still swinging the stick.
One set of parents posted on the sheriff's office's Facebook page that their daughter saw the video and came to them crying, then laid down with the family dog to hug it, and another parent said her teen saw it and was horrified. The parent commented, "I urge every parent to talk to their kids and help them process what they may have seen. It's so horrific on so many levels."
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Most posters, however, called for harsh punishments for the alleged offenders and most of those who saw the video said they wished they hadn't.
"If you have not seen this video, do not seek it out," one poster said overnight. "I will not be sleeping tonight and it will take forever to get the images and sounds out of my head. The same is true for so many who have seen it. Trust that our legal system has this and that you will not benefit from having this knowledge. Kiss your kids and your furbabies tonight."
Crump said Wednesday in an email the video of the incident "is very disturbing. The acts depicted in the video are brutal and sickening."
Authorities are reviewing whether a transfer of the juvenile case to adult court is possible, he said.
"We believe that the juvenile justice reforms of the last few years will prevent us from seeking a transfer of the case," Crump said.
"Potential punishments include commitment to the Department of Children's Services or some local county-based supervision," he said. "This is a serious allegation, that if true, demands significant punishment."
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.