Thugs who torched cat on Eleventh Night Antrim bonfire ignored pleas of onlookers
A cat is being treated for burns after an Eleventh Night bonfire was set alight by heartless thugs while she was climbing it.
Bystanders begged the bonfire builders not to light the pyre in an Antrim estate, but they poured petrol on and set it ablaze, according to her owner.
Darryl McGreevy said he was told by a number of people that they saw his girlfriend's cat, Kitty, walking around the structure - but their pleas to delay lighting the bonfire were ignored.
"There was a kid screaming and telling them to stop, but they lit it anyway knowing the cat was on it," he said.
Witnesses told Darryl that the people responsible shouted vile comments like "F*** the cat" and "Sure the Chinese will get it later" before pouring petrol round the bonfire and igniting it.
The cat was in flames when she escaped from the pyre in Parkhall estate and was taken by a neighbour to a vet, where she has been treated for singeing all over her body.
Kitty has burns on the tips of her ears and on her paws, and her whiskers have been burned off, but it is hard to tell how badly injured she is because of her colour, Darryl said.
He said he and his girlfriend, Kirsty-Anne Irvine, haven't felt able to tell her children aged 4 and 2, yet about what happened to their pet, and the vet has said it will be a few days before they can even consider bringing the animal home.
Darryl said they let Kitty out at around 9pm on the Eleventh Night and saw someone running away with the cat in his arms shortly afterwards. They feared the worst when they heard later that a cat had been set on fire.
"We were sitting at home hoping she might be here at the door," he said.
"But when I went to the vet in the morning I knew it was her. She had a white spot on her chest and it was nearly all gone.
"It's really cruel - if it was the likes of a dog they wouldn't have done it. They would have stopped and got the dog off.
"They wouldn't like it if it was done to their pet.
"I haven't told the kids about it yet."
Darryl said the family has had Kitty for five months after taking her in as a stray.
"We found her soaking and cold and we fed her one night and ever since she just came back. We asked people if they knew who owned her and nobody came forward so, five months down the line, we still have her," he said.
"The kids wake up every morning and it's 'Kitty, Kitty, Kitty'.
"I am really disgusted with what's happened, but I'm sure whoever it was is known.
"The cat must have already been on the bonfire and was walking around. People noticed the cat was on the bonfire, but those fellows didn't care and they just poured petrol on and lit it."
The vet who treated Kitty said her ears and nose are severely burned, her whiskers are totally burned off and the hair over her entire body is singed.
Alliance Party MLA Naomi Long, who has campaigned for stronger laws against animal cruelty, said: "It is horrific to think of any animal suffering in this way and I hope that it recovers from its injuries.
"If reports are true that those who lit the bonfire were aware that the cat was inside then I trust that the matter will be fully investigated and charges brought against those responsible.
"There can be no excuse for such barbaric acts of cruelty against a defenceless creature."