Owners of missing cats in Whiteabbey’s Glenville Road fear that their animals are being used for dog baiting after 11 disappeared in two months.
An urgent warning message has now been placed on the Lost and Found Pets County Antrim Facebook page, warning residents in Newtownabbey, Antrim and East Belfast that more than 60 cats have recently gone missing.
The page advises owners to keep their cats indoors as much as possible, and adds: “Do not let your cats out at night, they are not safe.”
Glenville Road resident Oonagh McKenna says she has been left heartbroken after her rescue cat Miguel vanished from her home three weeks ago.
She revealed: “When you walk down the Glenville Road there are at least three missing cat posters on every lampost. Then people started to post their animals on Facebook and they realised there were so many missing. There are over 60 cats missing. A couple recently moved in behind us and their cat has gone missing too.
Una says that she and other owners’ worst fears are that their beloved pets are being used to bait dogs. She continued: “In local parks they have found quite a few dead foxes and they found a cat in a garden last week with its stomach ripped out. It’s too much of a coincidence.
“I’m having to come to terms with the likelihood that that’s what has happened to Miguel. He was a rescue cat and we had had him for a year-and-a-half and he was getting settled in.
“We have printed 200 ‘missing’ leaflets and put them any on lamposts and through doors. We think these people may be putting food in fox traps to lure the cats in. We think they are going into Glenville Park and Monkstown Wood hunting foxes.
“Residents say they have seen people on the Glenville Road at 4am. We think they are coming out in the early hours looking for cats. This is a built-up area with family homes, so there are lots of pets.”
The pet owner says that the thought of animals suffering in this manner leaves her ‘sick to the stomach’ and she believes that Northern Ireland needs more stringent penalties to discourage animal cruelty.
Residents have now formed a Community Pet Watch Action Group and are hoping to organise a public meeting in Glenville Community Centre to discuss the issue.
Monkstown Wood is partly managed by conservation charity The Woodland Trust and partly by Newtownabbey Borough Council.
A Woodland Trust spokesperson said that the use of snares and hunting with dogs is not permitted on its estate. She continued: “The Woodland Trust has received reports from concerned members of the public, firstly, about the use of snares to trap foxes in Monkstown Wood. We are treating this with the utmost of importance and urgency and, in re sponse to the reports, have taken the following action:
“We are carrying out increased site visits to search for snares and have asked our local wood wardens to do likewise. To date, we have been unable to find any snares.
“We have put up posters at the entrances to the wood, advising the public to be vigilant, to keep dogs on leads, and to report any suspicious activity.
“We are working with Newtownabbey Council to produce a flier which will be circulated to houses in the vicinity. We have contacted the PSNI and are now working with the PSNI’s Neighbourhood Officer.
“We were recently notified of one dead fox cub and a separate incident of one injured fox cub found in Monkstown Wood. We were also recently advised of cats missing in the area. We have passed this information on to the PSNI.”
The trust is appealing for anyone who witnesses suspicious activity to report it immediately to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or to the PSNI on 0845 600 8000. They are advising the public not to touch or try to remove snares, or to approach anyone acting in a suspicious manner.
Newtownabbey Sector Inspector Stephen McGuigan commented: “We are aware of speculation on social media regarding the apparent disappearance of some cats in the Newtownabbey area recently, however police have received only a very small number of reports (3).
“At this time there is nothing to suggest the small numbers we are aware of have been taken or stolen, or are being used in some form of cruelty or blood sport. We will of course keep the situation under review and would encourage any pet owners with any information or concerns to bring those to us.”
and we will investigate.”