The charity revealed at a conference in London yesterday that convictions for cruelty to dogs increased to nearly 900 while convictions for the mistreatment of cats, which have passed man's best friend as the nation's most popular pet, increased by 27 per cent.
"It is shocking that cat cruelty has risen so steeply," said Richard Davies, the RSPCA's chief officer of the inspectorate, who accused the government of "dragging its feet" over measures that would discourage people from abusing animals.
"People will do anything to them, including stabbing, kicking, punching, shooting and starving," Mr Davies said.
He added that politicians were not giving enough guidance to the judiciary to encourage them to ban cruel pet owners from keeping animals. "There needs to be a change in the law to define magistrates' power and give them the discretion of banning a cruel pet owner from keeping animals."
The RSPCA's statistics showed that 55 people received prison sentences last year for mistreating animals, compared with 23 in 1995. Inspectors received more than 1.3 million telephone calls from the public and investigated more than 100,000 complaints.
Poppet, a black and white collie, who bounded happily around the conference was paraded to illustrate the problem. Last year he was not expected to live after being left by his owner suffering a broken leg and burns. But a neighbour in Banbury, Oxfordshire, called the RSPCA and the owner, Norman Hobson, was convicted of cruelty and neglect.
League of suffering
RSPCA National Cruelty Statistics for 1996
Convictions - 2,282
Banning orders - 681
Phone calls received - 1,303,481
Cruelty complaints investigated - 101,751
Rescues - 6,982
Animal collections - 115,338
Cruelty to cats - 235
Cruelty to dogs - 892
Cruelty to horses and donkeys - 128
Cruelty to cattle - 186
Cruelty to sheep - 168
Cruelty to pigs - 65
Cruelty to wildlife - 121Reuse content