THOUSANDS of pounds in reward money has been pledged by horrified Star readers to catch the thug who battered a dog to death and set it on fire in Sheffield.
Animal lovers have promised cash for information about the brute who beat the terrier, broke its legs, tied it to a tree, and set it ablaze.
National charity Crimestoppers has also offered up to £1,000, taking the reward total to nearly £3,000.
Police yesterday traced the dog’s owner - believed to be a man from Birmingham - and are continuing inquiries into how the dog came to be in Sheffield and meet its end.
Its charred and bloodied body was discovered on a path near allotments off Manor Laith Road, Skye Edge.
Star reader Gloria Crabtree, from Stannington, offered a £500 reward.
Mrs Crabtree, who has rescued stray dogs while on holiday in Madeira and Cyprus, said: “The pain and suffering that poor defenceless dog must have gone through breaks my heart.
“It sickens me. Animals can’t defend themselves. All I can hope is a reward will help bring the person to justice.”
Wendy and Zaffer Zaherali, who run Wendy’s Dog Grooming salons in Hillsborough, Woodseats and Woodhouse, pledged £500 - and customer Vicky Walton offered a further £500.
Zaffer, 48, said: “All our staff have donated the money from their tip jars, and we have put in the rest.
“People are absolutely disgusted - there is a huge strength of feeling.
“Sheffield is full of dog lovers, and nobody can get over what that dog went through in its final few hours.”
Pat Hartley from Mill House Animal Sanctuary in Fulwood said she would donate to a reward fund. Her sanctuary was inundated with help from Star readers last year when a single complaint about her dogs’ barking threatened the centre with closure. Pat, 70, and her twin Jane, received enough donations to erect a £4,000 soundproof fence.
She told The Star she had been horrified by news of the dog’s demise.
“I sat and cried, I felt sick - how anybody could do that to an animal I do not know,” she said. “It is one of the most diabolic things I’ve ever heard. Whoever did it must be soulless, and they need to be caught.”
John Jackson, from Meersbrook, offered £100 and said: “I could barely bring myself to look at the pictures. It’s awful.”
Pensioner Evelyn Summers, 84, who lives near Barnsley, said she would add £200. “I couldn’t sleep a wink,” she said. “I hope the police catch whoever did this.”
Crimestoppers’ regional manager for Yorkshire, Dave Hunter, said: “I was horrified to hear about this attack and dread to think what the poor animal had to go through.
“This incident has upset a lot of people locally and I would urge anyone with information to contact Crimestoppers and help bring this person to justice.
“Information that leads to an arrest and charge may qualify for a reward of up to £1,000.”
Online, Star readers shared their outrage.
Zrin Ka offered to distribute leaflets in Skye Edge appealing for information, and dog lover ‘Deepblue’ wrote on The Star’s website: “This is the most sickening thing I have ever heard. I can’t get it out of my mind.
“I have three beautiful dogs of my own and cannot comprehend the evil person who could do this to a defenceless animal.
“What next? Will they move on to a child?
“I’m ashamed to be a Sheffielder.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman confirmed: “The owner of the dog has been traced, and officers are grateful to members of the public who have provided information to assist with the investigation.
“The circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear.”
Anyone with information should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.