A PET stag and a pregnant ewe have been savaged to death by a dog.
The dog mauled the stag to death after offenders broke into its enclosure at Jacksons Nursery, Bagnall, during the weekend.
Owners of the nursery, Roger and Ruth Jackson, found the body of the stag with its throat ripped out on Saturday morning.
The ewe was found killed less than 500 yards from the nursery, and police believe the same offenders and dog are responsible.
The nursery keeps the deer as an attraction for visitors, and staff have been left deeply shocked by the incident.
Mr Jackson said: "It's absolutely tragic; it's heartbreaking.
"The deer are really popular with the children and they called the stag Rudolph."
The couple were first alerted to the break-in when the terrified stag broke through the enclosure fence, setting off the nursery's alarm system.
Leek Police PCSO Paul Flowers said he was concerned for members of the public if the dog ever got loose or out of control.
He said: "The killing of the red deer stag at Jacksons Nursery was carried out by an organised criminal gang and a very dangerous dog, probably a Bull Lurcher.
"The single bite to the throat of the animal is certainly the worst single bite I have seen during my 35 years with Staffordshire Police.
"I believe this criminal gang is responsible for several other deer killing at different locations in North Staffordshire.
"The previous one in early January was in the Moorlands when four red deer hinds were killed. On that occasion as well as this, the offenders did not get away with any animals. As well as my concern about the killing of the deer I am more concerned for the safety of the public.
"If this dog ever gets loose or out of control I dread to think of the consequences." Mr Flowers said that someone, either a wife or girlfriend, would know the man and dog involved in the barbaric killing.
He added: "They will know about the dog I have described and will know about the person going out late at night with the dog.
"These men may be using farm deer as a training exercise to train this and other dogs before taking wild deer.
"They know there will be a guarantee of an animal to kill in these deer parks as the animals have no chance to escape.
"On the same night as the stag was killed, less than 500 yards away, a pregnant ewe was also killed by a dog causing similar injuries.
"I have little doubt the same offenders used the dog on the ewe prior to taking the stag.
"I am aware that a considerable reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of these offenders."
Anyone with information on the incidents is asked to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. Zoo broken into: Page 17