SCHOOLCHILDREN as young as eight are believed to have thrown fireworks at a cat and kitten, killing both of them.
There is outrage after the animals were found dead in a green area of Drogheda.
The ISPCA, gardai and other groups are now appealing to parents and young people to think about the real dangers of fireworks ahead of Halloween.
The Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) last night linked the incident to TV programme Love/Hate, which recently included a scene where a cat was shot dead.
The easy availability of fireworks is being blamed for the latest attack.
The remains of the kitten were still visible on a green in the housing estate in Drogheda last night.
The attack took place over a week ago and one local mother, who did not want to be named, claimed that fireworks are readily available if the children "know where to go".
"It was one of those, a black cat firework, that killed those cats," the woman said.
She said her own children had been given five black cat fireworks but she had confiscated them.
"You can get a pack of ten black cats for ¿3 and two packs for ¿5. There is a family pack which has black cats, a screamer and a rocket in it for ¿15. It is disgraceful that adults are selling them to children when they should know how dangerous they are."
The mum also revealed children are playing a highly dangerous game called "I dare you" where they light a black cat firework and put it into their trouser pocket.
"There are boys on crutches because they have been injured with this. It is everywhere and not just where I live."
She said children aged between eight and 12 targeted the kitten before also killing its mother.
"The firework exploded and killed the cat and when the mother cat came looking for it they threw one at her and she died too," she said.
Campaigner group ARAN intends to contact schools in the area today with a view to giving information talks to children.
"We are not one bit surprised, but are incredibly angry with the latest case of extreme cat cruelty in Drogheda," said ARAN's John Carmody.
"We're absolutely heartbroken to see that some children turned on the most vulnerable animal for a few moments of fun.
"We are calling on teachers across Drogheda to let our experienced campaigners into the schools in order to show children that cruelty to animals is not cool or fun, but is nothing more than a cowardly act on those weaker than us."
Despite the cruelty involved the ISPCA Inspector in Louth, Fiona Squib said: "I have seen worse.
"I have seen the charred remains of cats on bonfires in Dundalk. What I have seen after 12 years in this job would turn your stomach and yet I never cease to be amazed at what people will do to animals."
A spokesman for Drogheda gardai said "even possessing a single firework is illegal unless you have a licence".
He said that gardai are targeting the supply of fireworks.
Mayor of Drogheda, Richie Culhane, said: "Just like drugs, fireworks are difficult to police without the help of the public. Anyone in a local authority house found to be selling fireworks risks losing that house."
He condemned the killing of the cats, saying: "This is a bad reflection on society that someone would carry out such a heinous crime on defenceless animals."