A young mule was found cowering next to her mother, who had a severe gunshot to her head, in what a welfare officer described as one of the most brutal attacks he had seen.
The young mule, named Lugs, was rescued after she was found by police in Northern Ireland.
Officers were called to the Ligoniel mountains after a caller reported seeing a horse in distress.
The found the young mule – a hybrid of a donkey and a horse – standing with her mother, who was in severe pain from the life-threatening gunshot wound.
Both mother and Lugs had been abandoned on the mountain range and left to fend for themselves, The Donkey Sanctuary said. It is thought that Lugs had been with her injured mother for many hours before they were found.
A vet arrived to treat the mother’s injuries, but they were too severe and she had to be euthanized. Lugs was signed over to the care of The Donkey Sanctuary for expert care and protection.
Allen Andrews, a welfare Officer for the charity, said: “This is one of the most brutal attacks I’ve known.
“It is tragic that this young mule and her mother experienced so much suffering through human cruelty.
“Mules are extremely intelligent and emotional animals and Lugs will need a great deal of help and care to recover from the trauma.”
“The number of donkeys and mules being abandoned in Northern Ireland has reached an alarming level,” Andrews said.
“From January to August 2013 we have rescued 96 animals that had been thrown out to fend for themselves.
“The figures have almost doubled for the last two years and we have genuine concerns about how many more abandonments we will see over the coming winter months.
“Now, more than ever, we need members of the public to support our charity and help save these poor animals who will not make it through the winter without us.”
Lugs is now guaranteed a safe and secure home with The Donkey Sanctuary for life. She is slowly recovering from her experience but will need a great deal of help and support to make a full recovery.