THREE men who fired a rat into the skies like a cannonball in a Facebook prank have been sentenced for animal cruelty.
Video of the unfortunate animal being sent hurtling in the air at a garage caused outrage when it was released by investigators trying to catch the culprits.
Shocked Express.co.uk readers described the scenes as “evil and disgusting” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
One reader wrote: “What did they get out of this despicable behaviour? Poor little rat must have been petrified. Hope they find this low life scum. Then again, any punishment is just not enough.”
This week the three men behind the social media prank were each ordered to carry out 180 hours’ community work when they admitted jointly causing unnecessary suffering to the rat.
It has never been established what happened to the grey and white rat after it was fired into the air.
The RSPCA have described how the footage posted on Facebook showed the rat being caught in the tyre-fitting workshop with pliers and then forced into a pipe attached to a compressor.
When then rat wriggles, it is hit on the head with a metal pole before, moments later, being shot into the air and over a neighbouring building. Laughing and swearing can be heard during the 90-second clip.
The shocking footage led to scores of calls coming into the charity as investigators tried to identity the culprits.
Inquiries eventually traced the three men and saw them appearing before the town’s magistrates’ court on Monday.
Shaun Fussell, 29, of Quakers Yark, Treharris; Lee Jones, 42, of Pentrebach, Merthyr Tydfil, and William Morgan, 36, of Mountain Ash, were each given a 12-month community order that requires them to perform the unpaid work as well as paying £360 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
After sentencing, RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said: “This was such a horrific case where this rat suffered unnecessarily.
“Even though some people see rats as vermin they are still protected by law in certain circumstances. They are still living creatures that feel fear and pain.
“These men purposely attached a gas compressor and put the rat in a tube and fired it. They knew exactly what they were doing.
“We never found the rat, but it surely suffered extremely from the horrifying incident.”
Following an appeal for information, the animal welfare charity received scores of calls from people trying to identify the culprits from the video footage.
Inspector Cooper added: “We would really like to thank everyone who got in touch with information on this case. We even had calls from Australia.
“We really appreciate all efforts to help track these men down which has ultimately led to a successful conviction.”