Teens face cruelty charges after zoo incident

March 4, 2008 1:24:24 PM PST
Two South Jersey teenagers face animal cruelty charges after allegedly targeting animals at a local zoo with a pellet gun. Ganesha, an 11-year-old white tiger, and Holly, a 12-year-old Asiatic bear, reside at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton.

Two teenaged boys allegedly shot at the animals using a pellet gun.

"Juveniles are known for bad judgment, but this goes beyond bad judgment when you are actually tormenting animals," said Bev Greco of the Cumberland County SPCA.

Greco showed us two of a handful of pellets fired at the animals who are kept at opposite sides of the zoo.

Police say the boys jumped a perimeter fence near where the animals were enclosed and shot at the animals with a soft pellet handgun.

The bear was hit, but not hurt.

Officials say both animals were agitated, which can always lead to a potentially more serious situation.

"We just saw a case like this at Christmas time in California where boys were mauled and one was killed after they were tormenting the animals," said Greco.

Investigators say witnesses at the zoo reported seeing the boys firing at the animals around 3:00 Sunday afternoon.

Police caught the two suspects near the zoo. The 14-year-old and 17-year-old boys were found riding away on a bicycle and a scooter.

The zoo issued this statement:
"We were very upset when we learned of this incident. Ganesha and Holly were youngsters when they came to our zoo and have grown up in our community?. We are saddened to think that someone sought to do them harm."

The teens were released into their parents' custody after a detention hearing on Tuesday.

The SPCA has now filed animal cruelty charges against the boys. Each is facing one count of torturing or tormenting a living animal.

If the teens are found guilty of animal cruelty, part of their sentence will include mental health counseling.