A ‘PET’ stag nicknamed Rudolph has been mauled to death by a dog after offenders broke into its enclosure.
The criminals set their ‘pit bull-type dog’ on to the red deer, pictured below, kept at Jacksons Nurseries, in Bagnall, over the weekend.
Owners Roger and Ruth Jackson found the body of the stag with its throat ripped out on Saturday morning.
Now Staffordshire Police are studying CCTV footage which shows men with a dog breaking into the deer enclosure.
The Jacksons, who keep the deer as an attraction for visiting families, have been left shocked at the brutality of the crime.
They believe the attack was carried out simply for the amusement of those involved because the body was left behind.
Roger, aged 56, of Bagnall, said: “It’s absolutely tragic, it’s heart-breaking.
“We’ve kept these deer for 20 years and they’re family pets really.
“The deer are really popular with the children who visit. “They called the stag Rudolph – they thought he was a reindeer. He was definitely the star attraction because of his huge antlers.
“The stag was five feet to the shoulder and he’s had a section of his throat completely ripped out, so it must have been an exceptionally powerful dog.
“There’s no doubt that this was simply about sport, it wasn’t about obtaining meat.”
The CCTV footage shows a group of men using wirecutters to break into the enclosure next to the garden centre in Thorney Edge Road.
They then set their dog onto the stag and seven hinds kept in the field.
The Jacksons were first alerted to the break-in when the terrified stag broke through the enclosure fence and set off the nursery’s alarm system.
But when they arrived to investigate the offenders had already fled the scene.
It was only when the Jacksons returned later in the morning that they found the stag’s body.
Ruth, aged 55, said: “If this dog was capable of doing this to a 220kg stag, it makes you wonder what it would do to a child. The police officer told us that there had been a similar incident at Foxt where four hinds were killed.”
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “We are investigating this incident and officers are liaising with our wildlife crime officer.”
Anyone with information about the attack should contact Staffordshire Police on 101, quoting incident 243 of February 1.