A DOG who was shot at close range with a catapult has lost its eye after an attack near Fordingbridge.

Three-year-old German shepherd Luca was outside in a large run in the garden when the attack happened last Wednesday (March 14) in Stuckton Road.

His owner Sophie De la Cruz said: “It is devastating, this is the family dog and to see him the way he is now is so heartbreaking.

“It is just despicable.”

Sophie was in the house when the attack happened and heard Luca barking outside, which she says is not unusual as he often barks at vans.

She said she looked to see what he was barking at and saw a van had stopped. She then heard Luca squeal.

“I was just hysterical I didn’t know what to do,” said Sophie.

“His eye was bleeding and bulging. I rushed him straight to the vets.”

Luca was rushed to Pilgrims Vets in Fordingbridge.

Sophie said: “We were so lucky to have got him there, he was haemorrhaging so badly that he could have lost his other eye,” said Sophie.

“He is ok,” said Sophie. “His anxiety was huge after it happened, he won’t leave our side. He is a very protective dog anyway and doesn’t go far from us.

“He won’t go back in his run, he literally sits at the gate. It is going to be traumatising for anyone.”

Sophie, who has three other dogs, said: “I am nervous to put the dogs in the garden.”

Her children have been “horrified and upset” by the incident.

Vet James Hood, who treated Luca, said: "Sadly due to the extent of damage to the eye, Luca's eye could not be saved and it needed to be removed under anaesthetic. It has since become clear that Luca had been shot with a catapult, using a ball bearing as a projectile.

"In October last year I was asked to examine a sheep in Fordingbridge that had been found dead under suspicious circumstances. The sheep had a ruptured eyeball and had most likely died as a result of severe acute trauma to the head. This sheep's death has since been confirmed as being due to a catapult injury.

"These cases clearly demonstrate how dangerous, and potentially fatal, catapults can be, especially when animals are the targets. The high impact of the projectiles fired by catapults can not only cause severe life-changing injuries to these animals, but can lead to death in many cases."

The incident is believed to have happened between 9am and 10am.

Sophie is warning other dog owners to be “extremely vigilant”.

PC Rob Morant from the Ringwood neighbourhood policing team said: “The dog owner is understandably distressed about this incident.

“We appeal for anyone with information that may help with our investigation to come forward.”

Police are keen to hear from anyone who saw any vehicles or people acting suspiciously around the Stuckton or Fordingbridge area at the time.

Officers want to trace a white Ford Transit flatbed with black sides and say it was reported to have had an item of garden machinery on the back.

Anyone with information is asked to call Hampshire Constabulary on 101 and quote 44180096368 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.