More than 3,000 people were taken to court and convicted of mistreating animals in 1992, according to the charity. The cases ranged from hacking the legs and tail off a cat to keeping a horse with an undersized head collar embedded in its skin.
Yet the number of people banned from keeping animals fell by 10 per cent in the same period, the charity said. In some cases, owners were fined for ill-treating pets, but the animals were later returned to them.
'Banning all animal abusers from keeping animals for many years is the only effective deterrent,' Richard Davies, the RSPCA's chief officer of inspectorate, said. The average ban of five years was 'just not long enough'.
The RSPCA launched its campaign for tougher sentences with the latest in a series of graphic press and poster advertisements showing the cruelty inflicted on animals, using the slogan 'Bringing the beasts to justice'. The picture shows Nutcracker, a foal kept in a field in Wiltshire. The animal had been fitted with a head collar at a few weeks old, but as he grew the owners failed to replace the collar with a bigger one. When an RSPCA inspector saw the foal at about four months old, the collar had embedded itself into the flesh over his jaw.
Darren and Heather Large, the owners, claimed they drove past the field twice a day, but had not stopped to check on the foal. They were fined pounds 500 each for cruelty, with costs of pounds 2,332, by Swindon magistrates. But the court refused to impose an order banning the couple from owning other animals. The RSPCA said they owned four other horses.
In another case, RSPCA officials were called to a house in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where they found 95 pedigree miniature breed dogs crammed into two rooms. The dogs were kept in tiny wooden hutches without proper ventilation, wallowing in their own filth. Fifteen of the animals had to be destroyed. Rowena Cass, the owner, and Kenneth Pearman, her lodger, were found guilty of causing suffering and banned from keeping dogs for two years - a sentence the RSPCA described as 'wholly inadequate'.
Fines and banning orders varied widely from one part of the country to another, the RSPCA said. Mr Davies said offenders should be automatically banned 'for a realistic period of between 10 and 20 years', if not life.