Residents in north Dublin are in shock following an appalling attack on a horse that was set alight.
Enemies of slain gangland hitman Robbie Lawlor are suspected of carrying out the cruel act.
The Herald can reveal that the horse is connected to a man previously stabbed multiple times in both legs after he was accused of attending Lawlor's funeral.
Former Dublin Lord Mayor Tom Brabazon, a Fianna Fail councillor for Donaghmede, said people in the area are still stunned after learning that thugs deliberately set the young stallion alight.
While gardai have not confirmed a definite line of inquiry, they are actively pursuing the culprits, Mr Brabazon said.
No one in the area can understand how anyone could sink so low as to commit such a horrendous act of cruelty on an animal, Mr Brabazon said.
"Most right-thinking people here don't understand how someone could set a horse alight," he said. "It just beggars belief."
The act itself was shocking enough, he added, but the thugs then videoed the animal being doused with petrol before posting it on social media.
The horse was found in the Coolock area suffering from malnutrition and with extensive burns to its head and neck.
The attack also left it minus much of its mane and eyelashes.
Gillian Bird, a spokeswoman for the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), said the horse is being cared for by its team of vets.
"He's doing well, although his injuries are still being treated," she said.
Both the DSPCA and gardai are treating the incident as a case of deliberate animal cruelty. No arrests have yet been made.
The culprits could face five years in prison and/or a fine of €250,000 if convicted under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.
Ms Bird said the targeting of animals or pets in a deliberate act of aggression or intimidation against their owner is nothing new.
However, they have yet to prosecute someone for such a vile crime.
"We suspect it's happened in the past, but we have no evidence," she said.