A local community is hunting a suspected cat killer after a spate of cruel attacks in Devon, in which some pets were left mutilated and dying.
As many as nine incidents have been reported across the Paignton area and local residents have offered a reward to anyone with information which could help track down those responsible.
A fundraiser launched by Debbie Johnson, who works for Feline Network, a local cat welfare charity, has raised more than £1,250 of its £3,000 in under 24 hours on donation website JustGiving.
She told HuffPost UK the attacks were “appalling” and included some cases of mutilation of genitalia, burns and broken bones.
Johnson said she had spoken to local vets who had dealt with the targeted cats, who told her they believed the injuries had been inflicted deliberately.
She added: “Each cat has multiple injuries, which suggests it has taken time to do the damage.
“It’s either more than one person – a cat wouldn’t just let a person do this without fighting back, or they must be drugging the cats or knocking them unconscious somehow.”
With the money from the fundraiser, Johnson plans to pay for leaflets to be posted to every house in town and to offer a cash reward to anyone with information.
Five of the cats attacked were found on Roundham Road in the town. All appeared to have been tortured in some way, with several dying from their injuries.
Johnson said: “Two of the pets belonged to two autistic boys who really aren’t coping with the aftermath very well.”
One cat, Taiyou, was attacked in November and was found with his “penis burnt off with a cigarette lighter, anal burns and singed whiskers”. He later died of his injuries.
Injuries inflicted on other cats involved crushed vertebrae and cuts across the body.
Two people from different areas of Paignton told DevonLive their cats had died after they were found with serious burns and cuts.
One of the pet owners told the website he was looking for justice after his 18-year old cat was discovered close to death by dog walkers in April 2017.
He said: “I was deeply saddened to see that so many more cats have been harmed by this lowlife.
“She was found with burns and cuts all of her body, burns had been done to her paws, whiskers, tail, and they even melted her rectum shut.”
The RSPCA confirmed it was aware of the incidents and is investigating.
A spokeswoman said: “These are really distressing incidents which are deeply upsetting for the owners and would’ve caused these poor cats to suffer.
“We are concerned about these reports and would urge anyone with information to get in contact with us on our inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018.”
Devon and Cornwall police have been approached for comment.
Johnson said she had reported the incidents to the force, but had not yet received a response.