Harrowing toll of animal cruelty across the region

James Clarke's cat, Simba, who was shot with what is thought to be an air rifle.

James Clarke's cat, Simba, who was shot with what is thought to be an air rifle. - Credit: James Clarke

An RSPCA boss has today told of the 'heartbreaking' levels of animal cruelty in the region as figures revealed a huge increase in the number of people being spoken to about welfare issues.

RSPCA graphic

RSPCA graphic - Credit: Archant

Chief inspector Paul Stilgoe spoke out in the week it was revealed cats had been thrown at a train travelling between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

It was the latest in a long line of shocking incidents and figures released by the RSPCA have indicated the huge task faced by inspectors.

In 2015, more than 80,000 people were offered and accepted animal welfare advice in the South-East region – 20 times the number in 2000.

'The level of cruelty, neglect and abuse we see across the region on a daily basis is heartbreaking but thanks to the help of members of the public we have been able to make it a bit safer for these animals,' said Mr Stilgoe, chief superintendent for the London and South East region, which includes Norfolk and Suffolk.

Sharrie is pictured post op following the shooting drama.

Sharrie is pictured post op following the shooting drama. - Credit: Submitted

'This year has seen some of the most distressing cases our inspectors have ever come across – and in so many cases the victims were dogs.'

Half the households in Britain now have animals, totalling around 20 million.

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The latest RSPCA figures showed 81,475 people in the South East region were offered and accepted animal welfare advice in 2015. In 2000, this figure was around 4,000; in 2002, around 50,000; and in 2007, around 78,000.

And last year, nationally, the RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals, found new homes for 47,651 animals, investigated 143,004 cruelty complaints, and secured 1,781 convictions by private prosecution to protect animals against those who break the laws.

The hedgehog after it was taken to the East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: RSPCA

The hedgehog after it was taken to the East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: RSPCA - Credit: Archant

In Norfolk, there were 2,689 complaints investigated last year – the fourth highest in the South East behind Greater London, Kent and Essex. In Suffolk, there were 1,861 complaints, and in Cambridgeshire 2,351.

Although these figures dropped slightly from the previous year, recent cruelty cases include one cat being put down and another seriously injured after being wounded by someone using what vets believe was a knife or blade. It happened in Aylsham last month.

And a woman from Walcott who broke a court order preventing her from keeping dogs was given a six-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and banned from keeping animals for 10 years earlier this month. The initial ban stopped her from keeping dogs for five years after she pleaded guilty to failing to provide veterinary care to a pair of wolfhounds in her care.

One wolfhound, Hope, had a fractured leg and the other, Rina, had an open wound.

Midnight cat

Midnight cat - Credit: Archant

The case of six cats being thrown at a train happened in Lingwood last Thursday, September 15. The train driver saw someone throwing the cats from the undergrowth and the mother cat and one of her kittens were killed. Four kittens survived, with two already found new homes.

And the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston area had previously been highlighted in relation to its size, as a 'hotspot' for the number of animal cruelty cases by chief RSPCA inspector for Norfolk and Suffolk, John Grant.

To report animal cruelty, call the RSPCA 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999.

Seagull shot and found in Yarmouth Waterways

Seagull shot and found in Yarmouth Waterways - Credit: Foxy Lodge Animal Rescue

High profile cases

Across the region, there have been reports of animal cruelty both to kept as pets, and wild animals.

In North Norfolk, a cat had to have its leg amputated after being shot in an unprovoked attack near its home in June.

Sharrie suffered a shattered shoulder blade during the drama close to Langham Road, Field Dalling, by Holt, after an air pellet pierced his chest, narrowly avoiding his lungs.

In Hellesdon, Norwich on Monday, a much-loved family pet was shot in the head with what seemed to be an air rifle, in an attack the RSPCA has branded as 'appalling'. Luckily the ginger-haired Simba survived, but lost an eye.

It's not just household pets either, another shooting happened in South Lynn this month, when a hedgehog was targeted.

When she was examined by vets they found a metal pellet lodged in her spine leaving her back legs paralysed. She was put to sleep.

And in Yarmouth a seagull was also shot last month. He was found in the resort's Venetian Waterways in the same place Alan the grey heron was shot earlier this year.

Since these incidents the RSPCA called for tighter controls on air guns, including better education when purchasing an air rifle.

Can you be prosecuted?

In 1822 RSPCA co-founder Richard Martin said: 'If legislation to protect animals is to be effective, it must be adequately enforced.'

And in 2015 the RSPCA 1,781 convictions for animal welfare offences across the country.

The RSPCA said: 'We often get asked why we prosecute people.

'Wherever possible we offer advice and assistance to improve animal welfare, including giving people time to make improvements to their standards of care.

'But this is not always possible or appropriate, for example if there has been a deliberate act of violence against an animal, where people won't accept assistance, or in extreme cases of neglect.

'It is under these types of circumstances when we consider prosecution under laws such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006.'