The BC SPCA is investigating after Snapchat videos emerged of Chilliwack teenagers blowing smoke from a bong in the face of a kitten.
In one video, with the word “stoney” at the bottom, a person is seen flicking a lighter as someone holds the kitten which is pawing at the flame. Someone inhales from a bong, then blows the smoke in the face of the kitten, which tries to get away but is held in place by a second individual.
In a second video, a young woman has what looks to be the same orange kitten in her shirt, its head and front legs emerging from her neckline. She, too, takes a deep inhale on a bong, then blows the smoke out engulfing the animal’s head.
Lorie Chortyk with the BC SPCA said they received the video and a complaint to the cruelty hotline at 10 a.m. on July 11, and they have opened a file for a formal cruelty investigation.
“It’s too early for us to have any information to share, but we are definitely following up,” she told The Progress. “The teens may have thought what they were doing was funny, but marijuana can be very dangerous for animals and if there is evidence that the individuals caused the kitten to be in distress they could definitely be facing animal cruelty charges.”
The videos were shared on social media after which the teens involved were excoriated by Facebook commenters.
Some comments reached the point of being aggressive and threatening, and some others have come to their defence.
“Put your damn pitch forks away!” one person wrote.
“Half of them spent all night crying and telling me they don’t know what to do because of this and they don’t want to live in Chilliwack anymore because of the hate,” said another.
Others said the teenagers knew what they were doing, and knew they were sharing it on social media so there needs to be consequences.
When asked about this angle to the case, Chortyk with the SPCA agreed that social media has changed the way stories like this emerge.
“I can certainly understand why it is upsetting to them, but they did have a choice in their actions towards the kitten and whether or not they wanted to share it on social media, whereas the kitten didn’t have a choice to be in that situation,” she said via email.
Eric Meyers is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who teaches in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, and has a particular focus on youth and media.
Meyers said what happened in this case is an example of something he discusses in class, and shows how ever-evolving social media platforms change the way we communicate and share, often in very detrimental ways.
Meyers said the kitty/bong Snapchat videos are a classic example of what academics call “context collapse,” whereby social media interactions involve ever-shifting audiences.
“You send a Snapchat under the assumption that this was going to be a message that was going to be gone in a few moments and instead it is semi-permanent,” Meyers said. “It has life of its own beyond the intended audience and then people are allowed to take it and remix it taking it out of its original context, and then put it on Facebook for a completely unintended set of audiences.”
See www.theprogress.com next week and The Progress in print for more from Meyers and a deeper look at how people young and old are negotiating through the social media landscape.