A Whiteabbey woman is warning pet owners to be vigilant after her beloved cat was “ripped apart” by what she believes were hunting dogs.
The Glenavna resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Times that her one-and-a-half year old pedigree blue point Siamese cat Lola had been resting on the garden fence of her home on September 29 when she was attacked by two large dogs.
“Suddenly the back fence began to violently shake and Lola became startled and appeared to panic and ran across the top of the fence,” recalled her owner.
“Then suddenly Lola disappeared off the top of the fence and I couldn’t understand what was happening as I had heard no noise. I ran to the fence and looked over and then I heard the most horrendous cry, which I will never forget. It was the sound of Lola letting out her last cry.”
Lola’s owner pursued the dogs into the wooded area at the back of her house, where she witnessed them “throwing Lola into the air and trying to pull her apart.”
After the dogs ceased the attack, she recovered her pet’s “broken and battered” body.
Having heard the dogs’ owner calling them back from the other side of the river, the woman tracked him down to confront him over their behaviour.
She says that he refused to take responsibility for his dogs’ behaviour, and denied that they should have been muzzled or on leads.
“I asked what type of dogs they were and he told me they were Lurchers although the larger of the two looked like a really tall brown greyhound,” she continued.
“I asked him what would have happened if it had been a small dog or a child?”
The woman says that the incident has left her family so traumatised that they may have to move house. She says she has since been contacted by other cat owners whose pets have gone missing along the Newtownabbey Way and who fear they have fallen victim to illegal hunting.
She is now calling for tougher laws to prosecute irresponsible dog owners, and for cat owners to report suspicious behaviour to the dog warden.
“None of this will ever bring Lola back but if Lola’s story can raise awareness and help prevent any other family suffering from the loss of a much loved pet and family member then it will bring some comfort knowing that her death saved others,” she concluded.
A spokesman for Northern Ireland Says No to Animal Cruelty told the Times: “Hunting is currently legal in Northern Ireland, but this case highlights how dangerous and irresponsible it is to have almost zero restrictions in place as it leaves family pets open to attack in built up residential areas.”
The spokesperson said that a prosecution could be brought due to the fact that the owner was not in total control of the dogs, or through Lola’s legal classification as her owner’s property, which had been destroyed.
“If this was a child, there would be no hesitation in acting and Lola was a loved and valued member of this family,” he continued.
“This should be reflected in the attitudes of those who are there to protect us and seek justice.”
After being contacted by Lola’s owner, East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons replied in writing that he had contacted Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council (ANBC) and that if no action could be taken he would consult with Assembly colleagues on the issue.
A PSNI spokesperson said that Lola’s case had been “referred to the dog warden who is the lead in the investigation.”
An ANBC spokeswoman stated: “A Dog Warden from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has identified both the dog owner and the individual who was walking the dogs at the time of the incident.
“The Council is currently looking at potential offences under the Greyhound Act and the Dogs Order. Enquiries are ongoing. The Council has no evidence to suggest that illegal hunting is taking place in the area.”
The spokeswoman confirmed the dogs were lurchers, and by law “greyhounds are not to be in a public place unless controlled and muzzled”