Family's horror as pony shot dead by fox hunter outside Coleraine home
A young Coleraine family has been left traumatised and fearing for their safety after their beloved pet pony was shot dead by a fox hunter 30 yards from their front door.
Mum-of-six Rhonda Burns (48) said her children were horrified to discover their small Shetland pony Maisie, who had been turned out in a field with her mum Bluebell, lying blood-soaked and lifeless outside their home on Sunday morning.
Rhonda, who was not at home when the discovery was made, said that her younger daughters thought the pony was sleeping in the field until they received a knock at the front door.
"My whole family is still in shock and we are swinging between inconsolable sobbing and anger," PhD researcher Rhonda told the Belfast Telegraph.
"A man came to our door and told my 19-year-old that he had been fox hunting, there had been an accident in the early hours and he had killed the pony.
"He said he would ensure that a claim form was sent out, left his contact details and said he would contact the police.
"My daughter rang me and she was absolutely devastated, all I could make out were the words 'shot' and 'dead.' I didn't know who or what had been shot and was dead.
"When I saw the scene it was horrific with copious amounts of blood, and Maisie's mother Bluebell was shaking in distress and trying to nudge the pony. She was covered in Maisie's blood and was frantically trying to get her to respond.
"I have four daughters still at home aged 10, 14, 19 and 21 and they had to see that scene. They loved that pony. I don't know how we will get over this. I'm just grateful that it wasn't one of my children who was shot."
The family has been in contact with police over the incident.
"One of the most disturbing things is that it occurred 30 yards from our front door and my 14-year-old has been constantly asking me, 'Mummy, are we safe?" Rhonda added.
"The kids are frightened to go outside. We have seen people 'lamping' foxes several times in nearby fields.
"This tragedy shows that it's not safe at all. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened.
"Anybody who could mistake a horse for a small animal isn't in a fit state to handle a weapon.
"It makes me really angry but also terrified about what could happen.
"These people are roaming about the countryside with no regard for the law, where they are allowed to shoot in the vicinity of homes.
"We are putting up security lights and other measures around our home to protect our property and family."
Rhonda said the family purchased Maisie's mum Bluebell two years ago to help their youngest daughter overcome her fear of horses and that it was a "lovely surprise" to find that she was having Maisie.
"We thought having a little pony would help build her confidence and to find Bluebell was in foal was a lovely shock," Rhonda recalled.
"Maisie was just a pet, only a year-and-a-half old and there were times I would have come into the living room to find her on my sofa. The girls are totally absorbed in their animals and this is such a cruel way for a pony to be killed.
"Now we are left with the memory of the smell of death."
A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police received a report on the morning of Sunday, August 6, that a Shetland pony had died from gunshot wounds received the previous night at a property on the Castleroe Road in Coleraine. Officers have spoken with the owner and the person responsible for shooting the pony and enquiries into the matter are ongoing."