A DOG lost an eye in a close-range catapult attack as it exercised in a New Forest garden.

German shepherd Luca was left with his eye hanging out and his shocked owner distraught.

Now police have appealed for help in tracing the offenders who could be responsible for a string of similar offences in the Fordingbridge area.

Owner Sophie De La Cruz said Luca was in a large dog run in the garden of their Stuckton Road home when the attack took place.

She said: “I heard Luca barking and I looked out of the window and saw a white, flat-bed truck in the road outside. I didn’t think much of it because Luca always barks but then I suddenly heard him yelp.

“I saw the truck driving away and when I saw Luca I couldn’t believe it. His left eye was hanging out and I just got him to the vet as fast possible.”

Sophie said the vet told her Luca could have lost his other eye too because of the extent of the bleeding but it was saved by her fast response.

His eye had been struck by a ball bearing which had been fired from a catapult at a range of less than 12ft.

She said: “It is absolutely disgusting. What sort of a person does something like this? I hope the police catch those responsible as soon as possible. Whoever did this had obviously planned it and went to the trouble of stopping the vehicle and attracting Luca’s attention. He could have been left totally blind by this attack or he could even have been killed. The vet said he had seen other animals with catapult injuries and that a sheep had been killed recently.”

Luca, aged three-and-a-half, is one of three dogs owned by the family. He is particularly close to one of the children, a 10-year-old boy who is disabled.

Sophie said: “I just want to get the message out there so that other people can be on their guard. “Luca is a big, strong dog and hopefully he will get over it but it is something that should never have happened.“He has been a bit nervous and clingy since it happened. The other day I was going to put him in the dog run but he was a bit nervous about it so I kept him indoors. He’s a big part of our family and close to all of us.”

Police have appealed for witnesses or anyone with information to get in touch. The incident took place between 9am and 10am on Wednesday March 14.

A spokesman said: “We are keen to trace a white Ford Transit flatbed with black sides. It was reported to have had an item of garden machinery on the back.”

Witnesses are asked to contact Hampshire police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.