Three high school students face trespassing and animal cruelty charges after buying a 6-foot emu in Iowa and locking it in Gretna High School.
A janitor reportedly found the emu when he entered the school's commons area earlier this month. Sarpy County Sheriff's Department deputies rounded up the bird and took it to a veterinarian to have a cut on its neck stitched. The emu now belongs to a Gretna company that puts on wildlife shows for parties and schools.
Lt. Mark Trapp says one of the students went to Iowa to buy the bird for $30. The three students originally planned to release it onto the school's football field on September 19th. They instead put the bird in the school when they found it unlocked.
"The high school kids probably thought oh this is going to be a harmless prank, lets stick a bird in here and let it skitter around hallways," Pam Wiese of the Nebraska Humane Society said.. "What actually they did was they took an undomesticated animal put it in a new environment I'm sure it was panicked out of its mind and they took an animal that can do some damage."
An emu can weigh up to 130 pounds. They are the world's second largest bird behind the ostrich and have powerful legs used for defense and claws that can cut through a wire fence.
"You put him in there and the inevitable result is going to be either he does some damage to the property, you damage him trying to catch him, or the people trying to catch him get hurt," Wiese said. "It's really a recipe for disaster and a dumb idea."
Vernon Jones heard about the incident.
"I just think the kids should be punished in some way, but they should not be kicked out of school and a lot of community service would be a good deal," he said.
He added that kicking the three out of school "doesn't help the kids and it doesn't help the school either."
"Animal cruelty is a logical charge in this instance," Wiese said. "I think they're trying to send a message to the kids and (putting the emu in the school) is completely inappropriate and mean."