Monstrous animal abusers have hacked the ears off a young greyhound before dumping him at the side of a road.
It's thought the 18-month-old animal was a former racing dog which was written off and mutilated to prevent his owners being traced after he was abandoned.
The dog was found injured on Ballycraigy Road in Newtownabbey on Monday evening by a member of the public, who reported it to police.
'Norman', as he is now known, is being cared for by Farm Hill Veterinary Clinic in Carrickfergus and will be taken into the care of the Mid Ulster Animal Sanctuary when he has fully recovered.
It is believed the well-natured canine was mutilated so that his owners couldn't be traced through the identifying tattoos on his ears.
George Anderson, chairman of the management committee of the Mid Antrim Animal Sanctuary, said Norman appeared to be a former racing dog who had failed to make the grade.
"I've been to see him and he is the most beautiful, docile dog that you'll ever see in your life," he said. "These greyhound people, when they would write off a dog because there is an identifying tattoo in their ears, it means they could be traced back to their owner, so they cut them completely off.
"It happens here in Northern Ireland. It's a common thing – it happens all over the UK and indeed the world.
"The greyhound industry is the most violent industry you could ever imagine. The conditions that they live in are horrendous and the treatment that they get at the end of it is unbelievable."
Norman may not have come from the Newtownabbey area at all, Mr Anderson stressed.
"He has probably been taken and dumped there," he said.
"It's just the cruelty that has been inflicted on him – I can't imagine the pain he must have gone through." Veterinary surgeon Arthur Tyther said it was the first case of its kind that he has seen, although the macabre practice is known among greyhound racing circles.
"It was probably done with a knife – the wounds are pretty clean," he said.
Joanna Davidson, receptionist with the practice, said Norman was brought in about 9.30pm on Monday through the practice's out-of-hours service.
"We think the wounds were inflicted that morning or even the day before," she said.
"He is a little bit depressed although he does seem to be a laidback dog. He's a big, gentle giant.
"After everything he's been through he is so easy to work with. We all want to take him home," she added.
A PSNI spokesman said officers were called to the scene at Ballycraigy Road shortly before 8.30pm on Monday after receiving a report of a dog in distress.