By Nathan Crombie
Santa the Masterton cat that survived three shots to the head has attracted donations from around the world and sparked a funding campaign likely to go nationwide to help other abused animals.
Angela Speers, who has three boys, told the Wairarapa Times-Age family and friends were on Sunday celebrating the third birthday of her son Phillip when family pet Santa - adopted a fortnight ago from SPCA Wairarapa - came staggering home, bleeding from wounds to his head and eye.
She was heartbroken at the injuries to the 4-year-old cat and horrified when told three air-gun pellets were still in his head - one lodged in his eye socket and threatening his full sight.
The solo mother knew the cost to treat Santa would be difficult for her to pay but was undaunted, as "he's more than just a cat, he's part of our family and he means everything to us".
Dr Heidi Ward-McGrath, of VetCare Veterinary Hospital in Masterton, surgically removed two of the pellets on Tuesday.
Yesterday, an otherwise fit and healthy Santa was to have surgery to debride the injured eye. Dr Ward-McGrath was to also determine if the injured eye needed to be removed with the third slug.
Dr Ward-McGrath had also launched a Santa Fund to help Ms Speers pay for the surgery and donations had poured in from across New Zealand and internationally, VetCare office manager Anna Cardno said.
The fund had "very quickly" topped $2000, which will easily pay for the treatment of Santa and, together with Ms Speers, help establish the VetCare Angel Fund "with the specific aim of funding treatment for victims of animal abuse".
"We've had two donations from America and another from Canada and people have given money and pledges from all over New Zealand. People have been very generous and we're overwhelmed."
The story of Santa featured on Campbell Live last night and Ms Cardno expected a boost to the number of donations and pledges.
The VetCare Angel Fund was being founded in consultation with the New Zealand Veterinary Association and "clear parameters set around the fund's use".
Dr Ward-McGrath condemned the shooting of Santa as the latest case in an escalation of animal cruelty in the town, and an unwelcome rise in the number of abused pets brought to her clinic for treatment.
She had treated more than 20 cats and dogs over the past five years that were shooting victims, with "many shot in town, mostly by air guns, often at close range".
Police were investigating the shooting of Santa, she said, and had fielded reports of young people "waving air-guns out the window of a car" at the weekend.
Dr Ward-McGrath supported a call for air-guns and crossbow owners to be registered and again urged people with information about animal cruelty to come forward.
Anybody wanting to donate to the Santa Fund or to the VetCare Angel Fund may call the VetCare Veterinary Hospital at 06 377 7955. To share information about the shooting call SPCA Wairarapa on 06 377 1912.