Warrants issued in cruelty case involving opossum

Warrants issued in cruelty case involving opossum
(source: provided)

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Warrants have been issued for four people believed to be connected with an incident involving an opossum in September.

The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed warrants have been issued for Bethany Polutta, 18, and Austin Kizer, 19, along with two juveniles for their relation to a social media post that shows possible animal cruelty towards an opossum.

DNR also confirms that a court date for them has been set. The juveniles' cases will be handled in family court, according to David Lucas with SCDNR.

The possible animal cruelty was captured on the Snapchat app.

Some of the screenshots came from Summerville native Cierra Black.

"Honesty I was disgusted and the only reason I kept looking back was to get more screenshots," Black said.

Black saw the event unfold on a Snapchat story.

"The opossum started out lying on one of the tables, which you can see in one of the pictures it was alive," said Black. "Then you see one of the boys pick it up by its tail and let one of their dog's sniff at it. It got even worse when the boy threw the opossum to another boy, who hit it. I don't know if it was a baseball bat or a hammer and they were hitting the opossum like a baseball bat."

Black also said she could hear the person recording the videos laughing as the alleged cruelty unfolded.

In the photos you can also see other people taking photos.

"I think what it boils down to from what I've seen is that they probably look similarly like a rodent. They have a hairless tale and big ears and their bodies look kind of like a rat," Tiffinee De Pottie said.

De Pottie is an animal rehabber that specializes in rehabbing opossums.

She said people torment these animals because of their appearance.

"I think they see them and they're just afraid and it's ignorance. They don't understand it so they fear it," De Pottie said.

As a rehabber, she said she sees forms of opossum abuse frequently.

"Those are the things that we see on a weekly or monthly basis," she said."People are either bored, they have nothing to do, or they see them rummaging in the trash and think it there's one there has to be hundreds. That's not how it works with opossums."

In the state of South Carolina there is a law that states, "A person who tortures, torments, needlessly mutilates, cruelly kills, or inflicts excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal or by omission or commission causes these acts to be done, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be punished by imprisonment of not less than one hundred eighty days and not to exceed five years and by a fine of five thousand dollars."

As De Pottie held one of the oppsums she rehabbed, but couldn't put back in the wild because of an injury, she said she hopes the people in those images have a change of heart.

"Maybe some of the people had a chance to hold one and see one and get to know one on a personal level maybe that could change their minds," De Pottie said.

DNR encourages you to report anything that you see is abuse, or unusual.

There are multiple ways to report an anonymous tip with DNR.

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