PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A gleeful boy violently abused a defenceless puppy, gripping it by the tail and swinging it around before flinging it into the air.
The act, caught on video, led to the arrest of the 15-year-old after dozens of Malaysians lodged reports.
But another side of the story has emerged, which paints the boy as a neglected child, who was perhaps expressing his deep sense of abandonment through tantrums and rebellious acts.
His mother left him when he was young, according to animal rights activist T Puspa Rani. His father has also not taken responsibility for him, while his aunt - who is his guardian - has asked Puspa to take him away.
"He was mentally tortured by his father's second wife. She made sure he was separated from his dad before he was sent to his aunt's house in Bahau. I talked to her, and gathered from her that the boy was very deprived of love and attention, and only wants to be with his dad," said Puspa, founder of Malaysia Independent Animal Rescue.
The boy, who earned the ire of Malaysians after the video of him abusing the puppy went viral, was arrested at his house at 1.30pm on Wednesday.
"He just kept silent the whole time - didn't say a word. You could see he was very scared. According to someone I spoke to from his school, this is not the first case of him abusing animals," said Puspa, who had earlier suggested on social media that taking the boy to an animal shelter to show him how dogs suffered would be a good way to change his mindset.
"Show him what is love. He can learn from our dogs."
Jempol OCPD Supt Hamzah Alias confirmed the boy was now out on police bail, saying he was cooperative with police.
Facebook user Greg Bajien, who initially said the boy deserved to be caned or even whipped, softened his stance after being told about the latter's background.
He said the Welfare Department should step in and find him a caring foster family.
The Star understands that besides the case of abuse and truancy, there were no other complaints against the boy.
His academic results and conduct are said to be "normal", but he has not attended school since the arrest.