PASCO COUNTY, Fla — A Pasco County 9-year-old is being hailed a hero for rescuing kittens that were being drowned in her neighborhood.
Olivia Rippeon and her mom were outside in their neighborhood when they noticed a group of kids down the road acting strange.
"We were taking stuff to the trash can, and I saw them messing with the cats and dunking them in water; so I told my mom," Olivia said.
Olivia and her mom went to the neighborhood front office, then went to investigate further.
"She ran, I walked," Sheri White, Olivia's mom said.
Olivia and her mom say three kids aged 10 and under had already drowned four kittens. The family says two others survived, thanks to Olivia.
"Because I know cats shouldn't be hurt like that," Olivia said, when asked why she felt compelled to help.
White said the children were home alone, with no parents to be found.
"They were dumping them into the water," White said. "When I asked them to hand them over, at first, they didn't want to hand them over."
White took the two surviving kittens and called Tip My Ear TNR & Rescue. The kittens stayed overnight with one of the nonprofit's employees. The next day, they were handed over to Pasco County Animal Control.
"Those kittens are alive today because of her actions of bravery and not just standing by and letting it happen," Ruth Pennington with Tip My Ear TNR and Rescue said.
The kittens, named Cloud and Fluff, will be up for adoption soon.
The situation happened on April 24. The children involved in drowning four kittens no longer live in the same neighborhood, according to investigators. They are not facing criminal charges, and the animal cruelty case is closed. Authorities say they paid them a visit and gave the family a warning.
White said she was previously threatened with theft charges for removing property from another person's home — that "property" being the two kittens she and her daughter rescued. Stella Ickes with Pasco County Animal Control said Olivia absolutely did the right thing by intervening and removing the kittens from an unsafe situation.
As a reward for Olivia's heroism, Tip My Ear presented her with $500 and a goodie bag. The organization hopes it spreads the message that it's always OK to do the right thing.
"She steps up, she's only nine," White said. "Not many 9-year-olds are going to go — stop what you're doing."
Some of that reward money has already been put to use. When 10 Tampa Bay interviewed Olivia, she showed us her newly-manicured nails and shared her family is planning a trip to Weeki Wachee soon.
Tip My Ear TNR & Rescue asks you spay and neuter your pets. If you find yourself in a position where you can't keep your pets, don't abandon them. Call your local shelter for help.