Animal cruelty is a terrible crime and deserves harsh punishment. Humans have long lived with domesticated animals, chiefly cats and dogs, and each provides the other with comfort and companionship. The partnership used to be much more equal when dogs (probably cats were not kept for the same reasons, but maybe pest control was the primary reason originally) were kept for protection and guard duty, but this role has dwindled since man has so successfully conquered the natural world. Now we look after our pets with a protective and nurturing hand, much like our children (but with more milk bones). A crime like this shocks people because it’s such a violation of the contract between pets and humans. We take care of them and feed them and they give us unconditional love and comfort in return. These kids broke that contract and they seem alien and frightening to most people as a result. No pet owner could imagine doing that to an animal. Even sport hunters don’t want to see animals in pain. The public will call for a harsh punishment for these kids, and they deserve it.
It’s kind of interesting that most people react to the opposite problem in basically the same way. When a dog attacks a person without provocation most people (including my own dog-loving self) call for the destruction of the animal. That animal has broken the human/animal pact and can’t be further trusted. Nevermind that as a rule the only way most animals would do that is if they had already been terribly mistreated by a human, dogs that bite people can’t be allowed to co-exist in our society and given the same level of trust and freedom as other pets. It’s a one-shot deal. I trust Harvey with my family’s life because I know him very well. But if he were to bite someone without provocation with intent to harm, he would be gone from my house immediately. My family would certainly come first.