Pet cat left seriously ill after being blasted with shotgun pellets
The owners of a cat maimed in a "callous, cold-blooded" attack have said they want his story told to raise awareness about the horrific cruelty inflicted on defenceless animals in Northern Ireland.
Two-year-old Echo was shot near his home in Ballywalter on Wednesday.
The couple who own him said he returned to their home in a distressed and bloodied state one afternoon just hours after they let him out. They said they want those responsible to see the pain and suffering caused by his injuries.
The cat is still fighting for its life and rescuers say it looks increasingly likely he will need to have a leg amputated.
Animal rights campaigner Nicola Mulholland said she wanted to make cat owners in the area aware of the issue so they could be vigilant about their own pets. She said: "Echo's not out of the woods yet. He still needs to recover and it looks like his hind leg will need to be amputated."
Ms Mulholland said Echo's owner rushed him immediately to Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic in Bangor, which confirmed that the cat had been hit by a shotgun blast.
"The pellets from the gunshot have torn through his body, leaving shrapnel scattered throughout his insides. The vet has stated that this shrapnel cannot be removed as there is too much of it and the operation would be extremely risky," she said.
"The nerves in Echo's left rear leg have also been severely damaged and the nerves connecting to his rectum may also be damaged.
"This is extremely serious because if Echo does not regain the use of these nerves and is not able to control his rectum he may not make it.
"As it stands Echo's heartbroken family have the anguish of not only trying to deal with the fact that someone deliberately tried to kill their much-loved cat but of also having to deal with the agonising wait to see if he will recover from his ordeal."
Ms Mulholland - who works with animal rights lobby group 'Northern Ireland Says No to Animal Cruelty' - continued: "The thought is absolutely heartbreaking.
"How can someone think that it is okay to deliberately try to end an innocent animal's life? The person who did this needs prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"What they did, as well as being a disgusting, cowardly, callous, depraved act of violence, is also a criminal offence. An owned domestic cat is covered by two pieces of legislation in NI - the Welfare of Animals Act and Criminal Damage, both meaning that this is a prosecutable criminal offence.
"We expect and demand a proactive investigation from the PSNI so that justice can be obtained for Echo and his family."
An update from the family said that although Echo showed signs of recovering, he still had a long way to go.