Dana the cavalier passed away in suspicious circumstances.
Dana the cavalier passed away in suspicious circumstances. Contributed

Support dog discovered 'strangled' in backyard

FOR the Barrett family, Dana was much more than a pet dog.

The diminutive cavalier had been welcomed into the family as a support animal for 13-year-old James. It made her apparent disdainful death all the more harrowing for the heartbroken family.

James' mum Veronica Barrett returned to her Mt Pleasant home from work last Wednesday afternoon and noticed a white Subaru parked in the neighbouring property.

She noticed two Caucasian men, described as under six foot tall, slim build and wearing bucket hats, emerge from the side of the house holding something before taking off.

Ms Barrett said the house next door was vacant and assumed the two men were inspecting it.

She said typically Dana and the family's other dog would greet her by the veranda upon her return home. The Barrett's smallest member was nowhere to be seen.

That is, until the following afternoon.

"I had a look around the neighbourhood ... and my husband and I looked through the whole yard and could not find her anywhere," Ms Barrett said.

"We noticed the fence had been pulled out from underneath. There's a brick wall about half a metre high then the fence line starts, and that had been pulled out on the same side where the vacant house is.

"The next morning I went to check the yard because we have another dog ... and she had dug a hole in the same area where Dana was taken from. (Later) I went downstairs ... I walked around the side of the house and there's Dana lying half in the hole that was dug earlier in the morning."

Ms Barrett said the dog had no marks to indicate inflicted pain.

But because Dana's eyes were bulging with her tongue out, vets informed Ms Barrett the family pet could have been strangled and suffocated.

Ms Barrett's son, James, lives with autism and Dana had been an immense source of comfort for him.

When Dana had not returned, Ms Barrett assumed the dog had escaped in an attempt to find James. She said the shock loss of her son's companion had been a devastating blow.

"That dog brought that boy out to talk, socialise, be able to sit with a group of people and actually have social interaction with other people to a point where you wouldn't actually think he had autism," Ms Barrett said.

"He went from a violent child to a soft, caring kid that showed he understands how you're feeling. The dog showed him you can have empathy, you can sympathise and realise what people go through.

"Now that she's gone, he's isolated himself. He's not talking, he doesn't want to do anything or go anywhere."

Ms Barrett said social media had showed the regular occurrences of animal cruelty in the Mackay region and something needed to be done.

"The impact these people are having on families, not just the animal that's been tortured or killed ... most of these dogs that are therapy dogs aren't just a dog," she said.

"They're employed by the family to take care of special needs children and give them comfort. That comfort has been taken away.

"It's not just a one off thing, I've seen on social media the cases that have happened. There's dog baiting, dogs being stolen."

Ms Barrett said she informed police of the incident before and after discovering Dana in her yard.

Police were unable to provide a comment.