A dog owner has spoken of the moment that she saw her horrifically disfigured pet limping towards her after it was set alight by sadistic thugs.
Natalie Agnew initially failed to recognise her beloved dog Codie after she was doused in lighter fluid and torched.
The three-year-old border collie is still fighting for its life after suffering extensive burns in the attack on Sunday morning.
Mrs Agnew and her husband Martin were just back at their Maghaberry home following a holiday in Spain. She went outside to call for the dog.
“When she didn’t come running right away, I walked down the private lane towards the quarry at the back of our house to find her,” Mrs Agnew told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I saw an animal walking up the field. I began to panic a bit as I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was a jackal which had escaped from the zoo. The animal was struggling to walk, there were bald patches all over it and blood was dripping from its nose.”
As the animal got closer, she realised it was Codie.
“I started shaking like a leaf. I couldn’t look at her. I called my husband out to the garden who gathered her up and took her to the vet,” she said.
The extent of the burns were so severe that the dog’s ribs and other joints were visible through her charred flesh.
“The vet said due to the nature of the burns this was a deliberate attack. I can’t believe anyone would actually do this to such a helpless and innocent dog. I am absolutely disgusted and am worried about what else these people are capable of,” Mrs Agnew added.
The 36-year-old sports therapist said her son noticed two teenagers walking down their private lane earlier that morning.
“My son was watching from the window and saw two boys who looked about 17 years old walking towards the quarry. They are most likely local, as you would need to be familiar with the area to know about that lane,” she said.
She said the cruel deed has been very traumatic for her whole family.
“In addition to being devastated by this horrific attack on our dog, my 10-year-old son now blames himself for not calling the dog in earlier. He is also petrified of going anywhere alone.”
She added that Codie is now on strong pain medication and the family is hoping to collect her from the vets soon so they can nurse her back to health at home.
USPCA spokesman David Wilson said the attack was a “heinous, deliberate act on a defenceless animal” and urged anyone with information to report it to police.
A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed police in Lisburn are investigating the incident which took place in the Maghaberry Road area at around 9am on Sunday.
Maghaberry Community Association manager Tracey Crothers said the whole community was “deeply disturbed” by the attack.
“I hope whoever carried out this hideous crime is caught and gets the punishment they deserve,” she added.
British and Irish Lions rugby star Stephen Ferris, who is a friend of the dog’s owners, joined the family in appealing for information. “Hopefully the poor thing will pull through,” he said.
“The little dog is as friendly as they come. This is just an act of cruelty of the nastiest sort.
“I hope those responsible for this attack are caught as soon as possible.”
Anyone with information, or who may have witnessed the attack, is asked to contact Lisburn police station on 0845 600 8000 or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.