Take your pick of the following horrors: beating a horse to death with a baseball bat, cutting a horse to shreds with a machete or sawing clean through one of its legs.
All three of these disgusting incidents have taken place in the same field in Waterford city in recent months, with the same poor souls being called upon to dispose of the remains.
I could go on, and for the purposes of this column, I will. There are dogs being stolen by the dozen (as they were every week in Waterford city during August) with their captors subsequently seeking ransom money to ensure a pet’s safe return.
A horse 15 hands high, purchased for €3,500 at last year’s Tallow Horse Fair, could fetch no higher an asking price this time around than €250.
Indeed, several of the horses brought to Tallow this year which couldn’t be sold, were simply left behind by owners who couldn’t be bothered feeding or caring for them any longer.
The inordinate level of horse breeding which took place during the boom years has led to a supply which grossly exceeds the current level of demand. Should you spot malnourished horses during a Comeragh Mountain walk, now you know the reason why.
Vans continue to circulate through the city, often monitoring the movements of dogs and their owners, waiting for an owner to go indoors before apprehending the animal from its garden.
There are people out there who get a kick out of beating horses, who see nothing wrong with caging an animal and leaving it stew in its own excrement, who see no ill in allowing a pet to starve. What an appalling reality.
Regrettably, given the evidence presented to this column by the Waterford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA), it appears that the maltreatment of pets is escalating.
Now if you’ve grown up in a home where animals were valued, loved and treasured members of your family, learning of such horrors is all the more disturbing.
And when you see as strong and resolute a woman as Patricia Edwards (WSPCA) so upset at the level of abuse which animals are being subjected to, there’s no denying the scale of the problem.
Pat (as she’s widely known) is a true force of nature, the type of person who makes a lasting impression instantly.
Her love and care of animals is truly exemplary, which is what made her reaction to the beating to death and subsequent hanging of a three-year-old mare at Farran Park so noteworthy.
“What is wrong with these people?” she queried of those responsible for the mare’s death.
“How in the name of God could anyone do this and see nothing at all wrong with what they’ve done? It’s disgusting, it’s barbaric and it’s shameful.
“Those who did this, according to the information I’ve received, are of an age when they’re still at school and still living under the same roof as their parents.
“Now I know that parents can’t keep an eye on their teenage kids twenty-four seven, but there’s something going on within their ordinary, daily lives which has somehow made it alright for these kids to slaughter a defenceless animal. And it begs the question: what has made it okay for kids to act like this?”
But it’s not all bad news, I’m glad to report. In 2009 alone, Pat re-housed 178 dogs, 131 cats, 12 rabbits and 26 horses – almost one successful re-housing a day for the entire year.
There are other success stories she was keen to share with me, concerning the recent retrieval of horses in Dungarvan and Enniscorthy which had been missing for two and (remarkably) six years respectively.
“The good days certainly help you to cope with the bad days alright, and thanks to this job, I’ve met so many wonderful and generous people,” she continued.
“But what’s happened in Farran Park has really shaken me and filled me with so much anger. The thugs that did this need dealing with – and I mean severe dealing with. But will that happen? To be honest, given my experience with the authorities, I’m not exactly holding my breath.”
The savagery which that three-year-old mare was subjected to has shaken Patricia Edwards, who has witnessed horror stories in yards, sheds and houses by the dozen, to her very core.
“This sort of barbaric behaviour just shouldn’t be tolerated any more, and I for one have had enough,” she said.
Operating within the law, it’s difficult to see what Pat and her WSPCA colleagues can do to counter the incidences of animal cruelty in the locality without Garda and political muscle weighing in.
Clearly, at least from this juncture, such cruelty falls under the anti-social behaviour umbrella, and should be handled through the stringent enforcement of existing legislation.
But since this is an area in which few votes will ever be garnered, it’s clear that the animal welfare battle is one that’s not even close to being won.
If only a fraction of the energy which the Green Party devoted to the Ward Hunt was instead devoted to pursuing the thugs wielding baseball bats, machetes and saws. If that were the case, then maybe Patricia Edwards’ life would be that little bit easier.