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.
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.
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.”
Case study 1 - Beezee
In March last year, elderly Mastiff dog Beezee was found ‘completely emaciated’ and collapsed at a house in Blackpool with a large ulcerated mass on one eye.
He was unable to stand or even lift his head and was laying in urine and faece.
Vets found he weighed just 34.8kg instead of the 50-75kg and he had infected skin and fleas.
They had no choice but to put him to sleep to end his suffering.
His owner pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide veterinary attention and was given a nine week jail term, suspended for a year, and a ban from keeping animals for five years.
Case study 2 - Rosie
A husband spurned by his wife of 30 years put her beloved pet cat in a tumble drier in an act of revenge.
Former postman Martyn Birchall, 55, of no fixed abode, denied a charge of animal cruelty during his trial at Preston Magistrates’ Court but was found guilty.
His estranged wife Amanda, 52, noticed her pet Rosie, a one-year-old calico, wasn’t sitting in her usual spot on her bed when she arrived home from work on May 11, 2016, and frantically searched their Chorley home for her. When she asked her husband if he had seen her he remarked: “She’s probably in the tumble drier.”
She managed to bring the dehydrated cat round and save her by giving her water.
Case study 3 - Mr Chow
Hamster Mr Chow’s water bottle was filled with Tizer laced with LSD at a property on Kingsway, Heysham last year, and was also given cannabis leaves to eat.
Distressing footage of the incident sparked outrage among animal lovers. Nchinumya Ntembe, 23, of Cypress Road, LAncaster, was jailed or four months after admitting causing unnecessary suffering to the hamster and his two dogs and failing to meet the needs of two dogs.
Case study 4 - Dingo
Dingo was brutally attacked and thrown in a canal by his owner Joel Finley after he soiled in the house.
He was left with serious head injuries and suspected hypothermia.
He was taken to Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Chorley with serious head injuries and was put on a drip. Finley pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and producing a class B drug. He was banned from keeping dogs for five years, ordered to pay £1,172.31 compensation for Dingo’s vets bills and a £60 surcharge.