Residents fearful as cats are stolen for bait

Cllr Keith Haughian who is concerned about reports of cat baiting in North Lurgan. INLM2315-404
Cllr Keith Haughian who is concerned about reports of cat baiting in North Lurgan. INLM2315-404

Action must be taken to stop the theft of cats to be used in baiting activities, a distraught pet owner has said.

The resident, who has lost several cats in the last fortnight, is growing increasingly distressed and says that the situation will only continue to escalate if no action is taken.

“This has been an ongoing issue in the neighbourhood,” the resident explained.

“There’s been a dramatic rise in the number of cats being taken - in the last two weeks, four of my cats have gone missing.”

The mother of two regularly takes in stray cats, and has managed to find homes for a large number of them in the past, but knows there is only so much she can do to protect them from harm:

“I take in stray cats and place them in rescue homes. I can’t keep them in the house all the time, but they could so easily be stolen if I let them out. It’s a horrendous way to live.”

The woman, who says youths are recruited from the area to steal cats, has spoken with Animal Welfare officials but they explained that, without evidential proof, they are unable to take action. A DARD spokesperson explained that the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 provided the PSNI with strong powers to deal with any form of animal fighting, including baiting:

“Under the legislation, it is an offence to make animals fight, to be present at an animal fight, train an animal for a fight, make or accept a bet on a fight, and record, supply or possess any recording of an animal fight without reasonable excuse (such as to assist with law enforcement). Animal fighting is defined as an occasion on which a protected animal is placed with an animal or with a human for the purpose of fighting, wrestling or baiting. Anyone with any information on animal fighting should contact their local PSNI station on 101.”

Similar activity in North Lurgan was reported to the ‘MAIL’ last August, when teenagers and young men were spotted caging cats to use as bait for hunting. Residents now worry that, as local children finish school for the summer holidays, greater attempts will be made to recruit them to participate in this horrific business.

Sinn Féin Councillor Keith Haughian appealed for those with information to report it:

“A number of residents have made me aware of an ongoing issue relating to the theft of cats, seemingly for use as bait for hunting dogs. It must be pointed to those involved that under the Animal Welfare Act 2011, anyone found to be taking part in this type of activity can face up to two years in jail, an unlimited fine and an order banning them from keeping animals. These are very serious offences.”