A SICK attack on a cat has stunned animal welfare officers.
The tabby cat was shot dead by a yob armed with an airgun.
Then hooligans stuck a firework inside the animal and lit it.
The horrific attack comes exactly a year after a similar case in Linthwaite stunned the country.
A teenager blew up a Yorkshire Terrier with a firework after it had been hit by a car.
The latest atrocity was at Overthorpe Park at Thornhill.
The RSPCA is appealing for information after the short-haired, adult tabby cat was found by a member of the public.
The RSPCA took the cat, which had no collar or microchip, to a local vet who discovered the cat had died as a result of being shot in the stomach by an air gun. A post-mortem examination revealed the firework had been inserted and lit after the cat had died.
RSPCA inspector Paula Todd, who attended the incident, said: "This is one of the saddest things I have ever come across during my time as an RSPCA inspector.
"The fact the cat was killed by an air gun injury is horrifically cruel in itself, but for it to then be further abused by a firework is absolutely shocking.
"It is terrible that this area seems to have a reputation for sick animal cruelty on this scale, including fireworks.
"The cat was obviously well cared for and was probably someone's pet.
"If anyone saw, heard or knows about this incident we are keen to hear from them urgently.
"The sooner we get to the bottom of this horrific case the better.
"It is sad that it happened, but also that it happened on a playing field, in a park where young children play.
"I urge anyone with information to telephone the RSPCA 24-hour Cruelty and Advice Line in confidence on 0870 55 55 999 immediately."
In a two-day period around Bonfire Night last year, RSPCA officers handled 255 firework- related calls.
That was a huge rise on the previous year.
Last year saw an 82% increase in the number of calls to the RSPCA about distressed and injured animals on and around Bonfire Night.
The RSPCA is urging pet-owners to protect their animals. Rules in its animal- friendly firework code include:
* Never let off fireworks near animals.
* Keep cats and dogs indoors, close the curtains and play music or turn on the television to drown out the noise.
* Exercise your dog during the day.