WARNING: This story contains graphic content
An American animal rights organization is urging a large chain of pet stores to discontinue its sales of live animals following the arrest of a Kelowna man accused of torturing and killing three hamsters.
Leighton Allen Labute, 20, was charged on May 25 with three counts of killing or injuring an animal and three counts of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, stemming from an alleged May 2019 incident.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims Labute purchased the hamsters at a PetSmart store.
A video posted to a YouTube account believed to belong to Labute around the time of the alleged incident, a PetSmart box and three hamsters are prominently displayed. The title is “1 Kid 3 Hamsters.”
The description of the video simply reads “pin stabbed, drowned, microwaved,” though no such content is shown.
“This man posted videos of himself tormenting and killing gentle hamsters he says he purchased at PetSmart, which will sell animals to anyone who can pay,” said PETA senior vice president Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling on PetSmart to help prevent acts of cruelty like this from happening again by ending its sale of animals.”
In a letter addressed to PetSmart CEO J.K. Symancyk, PETA asks the company to assess its practices and consider that the animals it sells are “completely vulnerable to the whims of anyone who has a few dollars to buy them.”
The Kelowna Capital News has reached out to PetSmart for comment.
The YouTube account featuring the hamsters consists largely of violent claymation videos of anthropomorphic sculptures and dolls depicting gore and rape.
An Instagram account with over 7,000 followers, which includes Labute’s first and last name in the bio, shows similar content. The first post appears to have been created on May 1, 2016.
A video of the alleged torture of animals is reported to have been posted on Reddit recently, leading to an RCMP investigation.
“The funny thing about Reddit, it forces people to watch the things you do and ruins their day,” a Twitter account also believed to belong to Labute posted on May 4.
The Kelowna RCMP said they were informed of the video on May 14 and linked it to Labute after further investigation.
Labute was released after a bail hearing on May 25. He is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 25 to consult with his counsel.
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