Students at Southland Boys High School were questioned today over who threw a cat into an Invercargill creek.
The school's inquiry came as a nine-year-old girl was being hailed a hero for jumping in and saving the tabby, named Puffin.
Nathan Erskine, his owner, was happy to see him alive.
"It's cool that she's done it, stood up for an animal instead of laughing away like most kids probably would," he says.
Jhia Morrison put her own safety on the line fishing Puffin out of Invercargill's Otepahi Stream, ignoring a group of high school students who she claims threw the cat over a bridge and laughed at her rescue efforts.
"It's a big heartbreak, I don't know what would have happened if I didn't know about it," she says.
The cat emerged unscathed and the local animal shelter was more worried about her rescuer.
"[Jhia] was in such a state, I think it'll leave a lasting impact on her," says Furever Homes' Marie Wynne.
Southland Boys' High School is taking the matter seriously, holding assemblies to track the culprits down.
Rector Ian Baldwin says they'll be given counselling and volunteer work at an animal shelter.
"It's dead simple - if you're cruel to animals, you'll be cruel to people," he says.
Jhia hopes the boys will think twice about what they've done.
"I would pretty much say, 'Why would you do that? It didn't hurt you, so why hurt an innocent animal?'," she says.
Thanks to her heroic effort, Puffin is finally back in safe arms.