A young woman who took part in torturing a stray cat to the brink of death has been sent for drug rehabilitation after two of her friends were jailed for 16 months each earlier this month.
The two men had been handed the longest jail term Hong Kong courts had imposed for animal cruelty, a ruling applauded by animal rights advocates.
Yesterday, co-defendant Kong Ka-man, 18, escaped jail in light of her age. She was sentenced instead to a drug addiction treatment centre for an unspecified period, after the case exposed her narcotics abuse.
"Your record is clear and you are young. I find it more important to help you rehabilitate yourself," Deputy Magistrate Kennis Tai Chiu-ki said.
Kong was part of a group of people who pounced on the cat in the November 2012 incident, leading to injuries so severe that it was euthanised the next day.
Two men kicked and passed the cat like a ball, a witness testified. One man laughed while others stood and watched.
A photo circulated online showing blood oozing from the cat's mouth sparked outrage.
So Pak-lam, 23, and Yeung Kiu-yue, 26, were jailed on January 2. Tai said at the time that the pain inflicted on the animal was beyond description and chastised the pair for being "cruel and lacking a heart of compassion".
At yesterday's sentencing in Kwun Tong Court, defence counsel Luk King-wang, for Kong, said in mitigation that the teenager was led astray by "bad friends".
It was only after the cat abuse case that her parents learned about her drug problems, which started in 2009, Luk said.
"She has stopped doing drugs since … and has promised to reflect on her mistakes," he said.
Prosecutor Danny Ng Pak-kin said Kong had played a smaller role in the offence and there was no direct evidence showing her kicking the cat. He had no comment on her sentence.
Mark Mak Chi-ho, executive chairman of the Non-Profit-Making Veterinary Service Society, said he found the sentence for the youngest defendant "fair", as Kong was only 17 at the time and "perhaps not mature enough to resist collective behaviour".