"These people need to know that they'll no longer get the 'likes,' followers, and subscribers they're so desperate for if they harm a hair on an animal's head," PETA's vice president said

By Laura Barcella
August 09, 2019 02:19 PM
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In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding YouTube star Brooke Houts accidentally uploading footage of herself slapping, shoving, and appearing to spit on her Doberman, animal welfare group PETA is speaking out.

In an open letter sent out Friday to YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch and TikTok, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) president Ingrid Newkirk implores platforms like YouTube to enact zero-tolerance policies when it comes to animal abuse.

“One day of outrage before the public moves on to the next scandal isn’t enough to stop streamers from hurting animals,” PETA Vice President Joel Bartlett said in a press release provided to PEOPLE.

“These people need to know that they’ll no longer get the ‘likes,’ followers, and subscribers they’re so desperate for if they harm a hair on an animal’s head, and PETA is calling for a zero-tolerance policy for animal abusers across all social media platforms,” Bartlett continued.

PETA’s letter to YouTube reads, in part, “Please enact a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who posts videos or photos of themselves harming animals on your platform and immediately—and permanently—ban any user who does so.”

The group calls out Houts, as well as Twitch user Alinity Divine, who came under fire in July for throwing her cat backwards off her shoulder as she played video games during a livestream.

“Videos like these are extremely dangerous, because they may ‘normalize’ treating animals disrespectfully or even physically abusing them—particularly for impressionable viewers, including your platform’s younger users. They also increase the risk of ‘copycat’ behavior by people who are desperate for publicity and attention—even the negative kind,” PETA’s letter reads.

In Houts’ clip, which was shared on her YouTube channel Tuesday and has sparked an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, Houts tells her subscribers that she’s trying to prank her pooch, Sphinx.

When the dog excitedly jumps into the video frame, Houts grows visibly angry and reprimands Sphinx by slapping him on the head.

She continues to berate the Doberman, screaming, “Stop!” and shoving him to the ground. She then appears to spit on him.

The LAPD is investigating the incident and told PEOPLE, “We are aware of the incident. Our Animal Cruelty Task Force has received numerous complaints about the video and we are currently looking into the matter.”

After the footage leaked, stirring heated debate all over social media, Houts issued a public apology on Twitter, claiming she didn’t mean to hurt the dog and that her actions don’t qualify as animal abuse. “I am not going to play the ‘victim card’ or anything of that sort, but I do want to point out that I am rarely as upset as what was shown in the footage,” Houts wrote.

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“The bubbly, happy-go-lucky Brooke that you often see in my videos is typically an accurate representation of me, but it’s obvious that I’m playing up my mood in this video when I’m clearly actually frustrated,” Houts continued, adding that she was not trying to “justify” her behavior.

She added, “Should I have gotten as angry as I did in the video? No. Should I have raised my voice and yelled at him? No. However, when my 75 lb. Doberman is jumping in my face with his mouth open, I do, as a dog parent, have to show him that this behavior is unacceptable.”

It’s unclear whether Houts is still in possession of the dog. PEOPLE’s requests for comment from LA City Animal Services were not immediately answered.