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RSPCA tackles more neglect
Horrific neglect tops cruelty cases but
RSPCA does see encouraging impact of new Animal Welfare Act

Clyde, a six-year-old black and white cat was emaciated and had a severe mouth infection, as well as having nasal and eye discharge and ear mites. Two five-week-old ginger kittens had nasal discharge and one had cat flu, just a couple of horrific cases of cruelty by neglect which dominates the shocking catalogue of crimes against animals revealed by the RSPCA’s latest statistics, published on Wednesday of last week (1 August).

The figures from 2006 reveal a 10.5% increase in animal cruelty investigations by the RSPCA (122,454 in 2006); a 7.6% increase in animal rescues and collections (164,110); a 6.5% increase in welfare improvement advice given (52,688 instances); a 10% increase in verbal warnings to prevent offences being committed (4,222); and a 9% reduction in court orders banning offenders from keeping animals (681 orders).

‘Neglect has always been the most common form of cruelty,’ explains Jackie Ballard, RSPCA Director General. ‘But these cases defy belief. It’s just so shocking to discover pet food in homes where animals literally starved to death waiting for their owners to open a packet or a tin. Animals depend totally on their owners to meet their day-to-day needs. Ignoring this basic responsibility has heart-breaking consequences.’

Starvation and failure to call a vet featured heavily in the worst cases. RSPCA inspectors were call to hundreds of residential homes last year, including the dreadful case of a cat being hurled from a fifth floor balcony, resulting serious head injuries and a prosecution following a cat being killed in a washing machine.

Nonetheless, there is good news - the Society is seeing encouraging signs that the new Animal Welfare Act is having a significant impact. RSPCA inspectors are reporting that the new law (which came into force in Spring 2007) is enabling them to intervene earlier, helping more animals before they start to suffer.

There are also some other positive trends. Offences against dogs and cats were down (by 15.6% and 9.5% respectively) although dogs remained by far the animals most offended against - with 891 convictions for crimes against dogs over the year, compared with 240 crimes against cats.
Ms Ballard added: ‘Today’s figures refer to last year and although the new Animal Welfare Act is only a few months old, so far it seems to be working extremely well. Many front-line RSPCA inspectors are reporting that people are responding well to the new law, and increasingly we are able to help prevent animal suffering before it begins.’

‘Our main purpose in taking people to court is to prevent cruelty in future,’ she continues. ‘Crucially, courts have the power to ban those convicted of cruelty from keeping animals. The new Animal Welfare Act obliges courts to explain their reasons if they don’t impose a ban. We hope this will focus attention on preventative action, which could save lives.’