Beauty spot horror as cats found skinned in nature park
CATS have been skinned and dumped in a nature reserve by criminals who use their fur to teach dogs to attack animals.
Two skinned cats have been discovered in Boghead Nature Reserve, West Lothian.
Now police and Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) officers have launched a hunt to find the people behind the grisly killings.
People living near the nature reserve have reported an unusually high number of cats going missing - well into double figures.
And the SSPCA believes more of the animals have been skinned and then either dumped in the nature reserve or disposed of elsewhere. It suspects the fur is being used to train hunting dogs in illegal pursuits like badger baiting.
Inspector Penny Johnston of the SSPCA said: "The only thing we can think of is the skin is being used to train dogs. It's rare but it has been known to happen, although this is my first case in six years. I can't imagine there's a massive demand for cat fur."
The first cat was discovered in May, but by the time SSPCA officers were called to the scene someone had moved it.
The second was found by a walker's dog last week. This time the SSPCA were called straight away.
The state of the second animal matched the description given by the person who found the first. Its skin had been cut around the feet and removed to the neck.
Several animal lovers in the area are missing cats, but the SSPCA has no way of knowing who the animal belonged to.
It was an adult cat and appeared to have black and white fur, but there was no collar lying near the body and any chip inserted has been lost during skinning or through decomposition.
However, that will not stop owners of missing cats in the area wondering if it could have been their pet.
Insp Johnston said: "We see a lot of grisly things, but this has been really unpleasant.
"There's no excuse for it, there's no need for doing this sort of thing to someone's beloved pet. The thoughts those cat owners must be going through are awful."
The main thrust of the investigation now is to find any more cats which have been skinned and dumped in the nature reserve.
Insp Johnston said: "I don't know whether we will find them, but I suspect there have been more cats skinned than just the two which have turned up so far."
Although the SSPCA wants to bring charges against whoever is behind the mutilations it will prove difficult, especially with one cat taken and the other badly decomposed.
Insp Johnston said: "The cat's been dead too long for a post-mortem to be carried out. We will look at bringing animal cruelty charges against whoever was responsible, and if they have been training dogs for badger baiting we may be able to take action, but it will be difficult."
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "We have a specific wildlife officer who deals with cases like this. He will lend any assistance he can to the SSPCA to help them in their inquiries.
"We always work closely with the SSPCA in investigations of this nature."
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