Animal cruelty still on the increase

THE RSPCA last week unveiled its animal cruelty statistics for the year 2001, with a stark warning that unless animal welfare is treated seriously by the Government and by magistrates when offenders are prosecuted, the situation could spiral ever upwards.

At the launch of the charity’s annual cruelty statistics, the Society urged the Government to adopt its ‘vision’ for animal welfare in the 21st century. As the deadline for submissions to the Government’s review of animal welfare legislation was reached, the Society wants the Government to introduce a five-step ‘duty of care’ to help reduce suffering.

By adopting this ‘duty of care’, all animal owners would have a legal responsibility to make sure that animals have adequate food and water, appropriate shelter and access to proper veterinary treatment when needed. Animal owners would also be required to provide proper room for them to express normal behaviour and to avoid mental suffering and distress.

The RSPCA’s annual cruelty statistics show categorically that neglect is at the heart of virtually all cruelty cases prosecuted by the Society. Of the 1,977 cases prosecuted under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act last year, 1,761 (89%) were classified as basic neglect charges. The Charity is calling on the Government to update the century-old legislation to meet the welfare problems of the 21st century.

After a year in which the RSPCA staff rescued or picked up over 195,000 animals, responded to 1,509,317 phone calls (one every 20 seconds) and secured 2,449 convictions, the Society is frustrated that so many of these cases could be prevented if legislation enabled the Society to act sooner.

Tony Crittenden, the RSPCA’s chief officer of the Inspectorate, said: “The vast majority of cases could so easily have been avoided. We must try to make the public aware of the basic needs of animals and the long-term commitment owners are required to give them. The 2,449 convictions we obtained last year are 2,449 too many.

“We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers and yet our inspectors come across some of the most distressing cases of neglect and suffering day in day out. During 2001 the Inspectorate received over 123,000 complaints of cruelty. This should not be happening in the 21st century and we hope that the Government will update the animal welfare law to enable us to act earlier in cases of suffering instead of having to wait for the complaint that the animal is unwell, injured or even dead.”

RSPCA Cruelty Statistics 2001

2001 - Five Most Common Offences (under Protection of Animals Act 1911)
Neglect 1761; Abandonment 80; Ill treatment 57; Improper Killing 34; Fighting 20:

2001 - Five Most Common Offences (under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981)
Possessing (Wild Birds) 86; Possess/Take Eggs 17; Possess adapted cage 14; Illegal Possession (Wild Bird Eggs) 12; Confine in small cage 9:

* In 2001, 48 convictions under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954 were for keeping animals whilst disqualified.
* There were 80 life disqualification orders (for all animals) handed out
* 46 prison sentences were imposed
* 734 banning orders were given

Cruelty Comparisons

Convictions 2001 1991
* Cruelty to dogs 871 1,333
* Cruelty to cattle/livestock/pigs
327 389
* Cruelty to cats 289 186
* Cruelty to horses/donkeys
182 172
* Wildlife convictions**
253
Casework
2001 1991
* Complaints investigated
123,156 86,531
* Convictions 2,449 2,718
* Phone calls 1, 509,317 1,156,696
* Rescues 11,947 2,605
* Collections** 184,706
**no records held at that time

Cases from RSPCA files - 2001

Puppy’s Throat Slashed Up To 15 Times
Oldham, Lancashire
Inspector Marie Griffiths

A 24-year-old man who appealed against conviction for slashing a puppy’s throat up to 15 times was finally jailed for two months.

Gareth Robins continued to deny causing horrific injuries to five-month-old crossbreed Ben, despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him.

Robins had used a sharp instrument, which a vet described as something like a Stanley knife, to make up to 15 cuts in Ben’s neck. The wounds were so severe that the puppy’s jugular vein was exposed. The vet said it was only by sheer luck that no large blood vessels had been severed.

Robins, then living in Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham, maintained that he had nothing to do with the injuries. He and a friend had taken Ben to a police station initially claiming him to be a stray.

At Oldham Magistrates Court in October 2001, Robins was convicted of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to Ben. He was jailed for two months but was released on bail after lodging an appeal.

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, in October last year, Robins lost his appeal against conviction.

Despite the severity of his injuries, Ben made a remarkable recovery. He was rehomed by the RSPCA and is now called Reggie.

Inspector Marie Griffiths said: “This was a very difficult case and we were delighted at the successful outcome. Robins did not show any remorse for this appalling act of deliberate cruelty on a defenceless little puppy.”

Pets Starved To Death In House Full Of Food

Reading, Berkshire
Inspector Graham Hammond

More than 60 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies, some of which had starved to death, were discovered in horrific conditions in a house in Reading - even though there were 1,600 tins of pet food stacked in the porch.

Among the horrific scenes found at the semi-detached property in Southcote in July 2001, were the skeletal remains of three kittens. Twenty-three cats were also discovered crammed in a rabbit hutch the garden.

RSPCA inspectors - almost overcome by the putrid smell of animal waste - found dozens of cats and dogs infested with fleas and ear mites and covered in excrement. Several emaciated Jack Russell dogs were living in an upstairs box room, bedroom walls were soaked with urine and floors throughout the house were littered with faeces. A vet described the scene as “far exceeding the worst situation I have dealt with.”

Michelle Chaplin, 32, and Keith Lambert, 35, of Southcote Lane, both pleaded guilty to nine charges of causing unnecessary suffering to 36 of the animals - nine dogs and 27 cats - when they appeared before Reading magistrates. They were banned from keeping all animals for life and ordered to pay £8,050 in costs between them when they were sentenced in November 2001. Both were also conditionally discharged for three years.

The court heard how the couple had devoted all their financial resources and energies into caring for the animals and that Chaplin suffered from a compulsive disorder, which had led to her spending around £5,000 in six months on pets, most of them from a pet shop in Reading.
All but one of the animals - a cat which was euthanased on veterinary advice because of its condition - were rehomed by the RSPCA. The cats and dogs are now living in new homes across, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Inspector Hammond said: “This case will haunt me for the rest of my life. I have never seen that many animals being kept in such squalor. People may have the best intentions, but by taking in more animals than they can care for they end up doing more harm than good.”

Dog Found With Chronically Inflamed Skin

Exeter, Devon
Inspector Steve Roach

A West Highland white terrier was discovered by the RSPCA with chronic hair loss and inflamed skin at a house in Exeter.

RSPCA inspector Steve Roach called at the home of Sonia Forgham at Arena Park in April 2001 and found her dog Windsor with a skin condition, which made him itch unbearably and smell unpleasant. A vet said he estimated it had taken many weeks or even months for Windsor to deteriorate into the state in which he was found. He said the dog was suffering from chronic dermatitis.

Forgham pleaded guilty at Exeter magistrates of causing unnecessary suffering to Windsor, who she had owned for five years. She said she had in the past sought veterinary treatment for the dog but the condition kept returning.

She was given a one year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £500 but was not given a ban on keeping animals.

Windsor has now fully recovered and has been rehomed.

Inspector Steve Roach said: “It’s frustrating to think that this could have easily been prevented. Windsor had suffered over a considerable period of time and we would like to see magistrates have to give their reasons as to why they feel it is not appropriate to give a ban.”

Thirty Eight Cats And Dogs Kept In Caravans

Skegness, Lincolnshire
Inspector John Grant

Thirty-eight cats and dogs were found living a miserable existence in a collection of caravans and a shed in Skegness. Some had suffered from scalding as urine and faeces dripped down onto them from cages stacked above.

One dog had to be put to sleep immediately because the pads on its paws had rotted away as a result of standing in its own mess. All of the animals were underweight, some of them emaciated, and many had severely overgrown nails and flea infestations.

Struggling

The animals’ owner, Emlyn Evans, 48, of West End, Hogsthorpe, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals. His solicitor said he was struggling to cope but had kept all the animals to save them from being put to sleep.

In January 2001, Skegness magistrates jailed Evans for four months and imposed a lifetime ban from keeping any animals.

RSPCA inspector John Grant said: “The conditions these animals were kept in were disgraceful and I was pleased to see that the magistrates acknowledged the severity of Evans’ crimes.

“It is unacceptable for people to accumulate large numbers of animals then fail to give them proper care. There’s no doubt all these animals suffered in the hands of Evans. This could so easily have been prevented. People may have the best intentions, but by taking in more animals than they can care for they end up doing more harm than good.”
All the cats and dogs have now been rehomed.

Neglected Shih Tzu Resembled Heap of Dirty Rags

Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Inspector Gaye Bayliss

When RSPCA inspector Gaye Bayliss spotted 12-year-old Shih tzu Ben, she couldn’t even tell he was a dog.

Ben, owned by Keith Henderson, 56, of Valley View, Lemington, Newcastle, had not been groomed for at least a year and resembled an untidy heap of dirty rags.

Inspector Bayliss discovered Ben’s plight when she was called to Henderson’s house following a tip-off that the dog had a limp. Ben, who was kept in the kitchen, was covered in so much dirty, long, matted fur that he had developed a heart murmur due to lack of exercise, as he was scarcely able to move. The fur on his feet resembled flippers and his ears were infected and sore.

Embedded

Ben was immediately taken to a vet where his coat was sheared off while he was sedated. It was only when the vet began to cut away Ben’s fur that he discovered a collar which had become embedded in the dog’s neck and was hidden from view by the overgrown coat.

Henderson appeared before Newcastle Magistrates’ Court in October 2001, charged with neglecting Ben under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act. He was banned from keeping any animals for life, fined £500 and ordered to pay £1,243 court costs.

Inspector Bayliss said: “When I first saw Ben it was impossible to tell which end was which or even that he was a dog. It would have taken at least a year for his coat to grow into such a state.

“His neck was red raw from where the collar had bitten in and his ears were in a terrible state because they had never been checked. Thankfully, the magistrates recognised the seriousness of this case and imposed a life ban on keeping animals, which we were satisfied with.

“If only magistrates would impose more bans on people who ill-treat animals, we would have more confidence that animals in the future will be protected from harm.”

Ben, who was fostered while his case was waiting to come to court, was eventually adopted by his foster family because they became so attached to him. Sadly Ben suffered a severe stroke in December and was euthanased on veterinary advice to prevent further suffering.



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