Pet cruelty cases double, RSPCA says

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The number of people jailed for cruelty to animals last year increased by more than 100 per cent compared with 1995, according to figures released by the RSPCA yesterday.

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 - 121