DUBAI // A cat was shot at least a dozen times with an air gun in what a vet has described as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has seen in 15 years.
Despite bleeding profusely the small black and white cat named Mickey managed to crawl back to his home in Al Barsha 2 where his owner, Alison Caldwell, found him covered in blood. The short painful journey had taken Mickey several hours.
Mrs Caldwell, 38, of the UK, rushed Mickey to Dr Max Spicer, the managing partner at the Veterinary Hospital in Al Quoz, who performed a four-hour emergency operation on him.
Dr Spicer, who counted 12 wounds in Mickey's skull, pelvis, ankles and lungs, said that in the 15 years he had worked in Dubai he had "never seen an animal so brutally tortured".
Dr Spicer, who may have to perform more surgery to remove a pellet from Mickey's lungs, added: "He has awful, awful injuries. It really makes you wonder about the mentality of the people who can do something like this."
Saturday's brutal attack has prompted animal welfare supporters to call for more awareness and better enforcement of pet safety, with activists saying that more must be done to stop cruelty.
"I have rescued dogs that have been shot before," said Ayesha Kelaif, who runs a private animal rescue facility at her Dubai villa. She recalled the case of a wounded dog she found in Dubai's Al Khawaneej area. "He had bullets in his private parts, which we removed."
The dog spent a long time recovering in an animal hospital and was later found a new home.
"I think most people here like farm animals, but when it comes to pets, some of them lack education," she said.
Dogs, especially, were subject to mistreatment, Mrs Kelaif said. The situation has improved over the past couple of years but there was room for more education on animal rights, she added.
"You once would find many stories. Right now, so many people are working in animal rights, people are getting involved and it is getting better," she said. "But there is a lot more to be done. The only way we can tackle it is by education and enforcing tough laws."
Anyone found to be mistreating an animal could face fines up to Dh20,000. Enforcement of the law is the responsibility of each emirate. Officials at Dubai Municipality would not comment yesterday.
Pam Greer, an executive member of Feline Friends in Abu Dhabi, said while she had not encountered cases of torture such as the one involving Mickey, mistreatment was common.
"We run into cruelty of one form or another on a regular basis," she said. "For me, the simplest form of cruelty is when someone decides they do not want their pet any more and they just dump them on the street."
Such animals were not able to fend off dangers, and suffered greatly, she said.
"Just last week, I had four, long-haired Persian cats that came our way, and there is no way these cats were born on the street," she said. "These are defenceless animals, and as human beings we have the responsibility to treat them with respect."
Dr Spicer said he saw up to three cases a year of animals that had been shot, but the injuries were usually "fairly minor". He said he hoped that publicising Mickey's ordeal would help educate people about the need to value life.
Mrs Caldwellis to report the case to the authorities in the hope of finding out who shot Mickey and why.
She said that cases of animal harassment should not be taken lightly as perpetrators may also be cruel to other vulnerable groups, such as children.
"Whether you've got two legs or four, you deserve to live without harassment," she said.
She said the incident had caused her much grief, but she had cried only once, when she saw Mickey recovering at the hospital on Monday.
"My sadness is overshadowed by my anger," she said. "Somebody actually picked Mickey up, held him and shot him at close range."
Mrs Caldwell and Dr Spicer were convinced that the attack was not a mistake.
Three pellets were removed from the back of Mickey's ankle, and two from his skull.
"They knew what they were doing," she said. "It is awful."
Meanwhile, Mickey was in stable condition, but was still unable to eat because of severe injuries to his jaw. He is on painkillers and a cocktail of antibiotics, but the pellet wounds pose a risk of infection.
"Thank goodness, he is a resilient little cat and the initial signals look promising," Dr Spicer said.