Disturbing levels of animal cruelty across Lancashire
The disturbing scale of animal cruelty in Lancashire has emerged today as figures show more than 5,000 cases were investigated by the RSPCA last year.
Lancashire had the sixth highest number of complaints investigated in England in 2016/2015, with 5,124 incidents, compared with 4,811 the previous year.
They include a kitten put in a tumble drier in Chorley, a hamster fed LSD and cannabis, and an emaciated elderly dog that was found lying in faeces with an untreated eye tumour that had extended into his brain.
The charity prosecuted 31 people for animal cruelty across the county over the same period.
The RSPCA charity, which today releases shocking animal cruelty figures, believes a surge in investigations has partly been prompted by people becoming more likely to share concerns about animals on social media.
Last December a Preston man shared images of spiked dog treats dumped on a popular dog walkers footpath in Preston.
Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate.
“It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals, but equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.
“I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming crueller, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.
“People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.
“Either way, though, our officers are under increased pressure having to respond to more calls to our 24-hour cruelty hotline – these were up by more than 3% - and more complaints. It is thanks to their dedication, as well as RSPCA staff and volunteers across England and Wales, that we are able to transform the lives of tens of thousands of animals each year.”
The latest RSPCA statistics feature in the charity’s Prosecutions Annual Report 2016 and are released almost 10 years after the Animal Welfare Act was introduced into England and Wales, making it possible for the RSPCA to intervene earlier and prevent an animal suffering.
It saw 31 people prosecuted in Lancashire last year. One animal lover fears the figures are vastly underestimated., showing just a fraction of the true picture.
Barn-owl Bill Higham, who currently cares for 43 birds at his charitable Lancashire sanctuary, said: “I’d say it’s got worse over the last 18 months to two years. We had a case where a hawk was kept in a roofless aviary tied to a perch.
“We also rescued two barn owls that were kept in an aviary the size of a small kennel - that broke my heart.
“The 5,100 are just cases the RSPCA are able to deal with, we hear of several others. Everybody’s resources are stretched.”
Stephen Wakelin, 40, who runs the Wolfwood dog rescue charity in Lancaster has been rescuing animals for the last 21 years.
He said: “I think I see more mental cruelty, dogs not brought up correctly, not taken for a walk, just there for the owner’s comfort.
“Many people do not know how to bring up animals. I’d say a lot of dogs aren’t given a proper life.
“We cared for 64 at one point but don’t even have our own kennels.
“They come to us underweight and carrying parasites and unneutered - these are just the basic needs.
“I believe animal welfare should be part of the national curriculum.”