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Star, the dog that was shot and buried alive, dies in Malta

Star with her carer at St Francis Animal Care CentreStar, the dog whose horrific tale of torture on the island of Malta made international headlines, has died after suffering an acute inflammation of the pancreas. Her death was announced by the Ministry of Rural Affairs 24 hours after a large protest against animal cruelty took place that was triggered by her story.

The female cross-breed had been recovering so well from her injuries and trauma that it was decided she could leave the Ta' Qali animal welfare centre to spend time with her new owners. Max Farrugia from International Animal Rescue Malta saw Star just days before she died. He said "As soon as I entered the pen next to her she came up to me and starting sniffing. She had probably caught the scent of my own dog and was very inquisitive and friendly. I stroked her for some time and then took some photos of her. She seemed happy and responsive. I was with her for about 15 minutes."

According to the statement from the Ministry of Rural Affairs, on the following day she was sent to the home of her new owners to start integrating with the family. However within 24 hours she was back at the St. Francis Animal Care Centre because she was clearly unwell. Once back at the centre her condition stabilised for a while, then continued to deteriorate until she passed away. Veterinarian Dr Zammit, who had painstakingly removed the 40 shotgun pellets from Star's head and was entrusted with her care, had said earlier in the week that she was "improving in leaps and bounds considering the extent of her injuries." Dr Zammit and his team were speechless when Star passed away. A member of staff said they were all devastated and unable to comment any further.

Star was recovering from her wounds but sadly succumbed to pancreatitisThe five year old dog had been found near Għar Ħasan by Animal Welfare Department officers on 19 May, whimpering after she managed to poke her nose through the soil. She had been shot once at point blank range. The vile person who shot her had also tied her muzzle and front and hind paws and buried her alive in a shallow grave, which was then covered with cardboard and a tree trunk. Police are still investigating the case.

Animal welfare coordinator Janice Chetcuti who, together with Max Farrugia and Emanuel Buhagiar from the animal welfare directorate were on the radio discussing animal cruelty and answering questions from the general public, appealed to people not to let the energy and strength of feeling witnessed during Sunday's protest die with Star.

"Star represented something powerful and a ray of hope for us all. Let us tap into the energy she sparked within us to continue campaigning against animal cruelty and keep that fervour alive," said Janice in response to a question from one of the listeners.

Calls to adopt Star came from different countries including Brazil. Most of the offers from abroad were from the UK. International Animal Rescue received several calls in Malta and in the UK office.

Mass protest against animal cruelty in Malta

Hundreds of people participated in the mass protestHundreds of people turned up in Sliema and participated in a mass protest against animal cruelty in Malta.

The protest - which was mainly a silent march - took place in reaction to the horrific attack on Star the dog. A number of participants took their dogs with them, while others carried placards reading 'Stop Animal Cruelty.'The dogs wore coloured ribbons on their collars 'in solidarity' with Star.

The protest started next to the ferry terminus where a young singer, Shauna Vassallo, performed her song Fejn, which focuses on cruelty to animals. It ended in Ta' Xbiex area about an hour and half later.

Fleur Cilia Buckett, one of the organisers, said she was happy at the scale of the turnout but said there were many other cases of animal cruelty which go unreported in the media. The general mood was that the authorities need to raise the penalties which the courts can impose on those convicted of animal cruelty. It was also important, however, that the courts ordered psychological help to be given to abusers since otherwise they were likely to re-offend.

Participating in the protest were several NGOs involved in animal welfare. Also present was the Minister responsible for animal welfare and members of the animal welfare directorate. Resources and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino, who was also present, described the walk as "a protest of disapproval not only of Star's case but vis-a-vis all those people who are cruel towards animals to flaunt their power".

More than 50,000 individuals in Malta and various other countries have signed up to a Star solidarity page on Facebook. A fund has also been set up to reward anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.

If this does not bring a result within a year the money will be distributed among NGOs involved in animal welfare.