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Cruelty to dogs up more than a third

The decaying body of a starved dog found chained by a radiator is just a tiny sample of the horrors confronted by RSPCA inspectors in 2007.

The RSPCA’s latest figures show a staggering 34% increase on the previous year and show that yet again, dogs have borne the worst cruelty out of all pets yet again.

But there are also some amazing tales of survival. Thanks to vigilant members of the public, the RSPCA has been alerted to some appalling situations in time to rescue animals which have survived against all the odds. These include a dog so thin its rescuers couldn’t identify it, a cat left to suffer for three weeks with a broken leg, and a staffie whose owners had cut its ears off. All are now enjoying new lives in loving new homes.

"These animals are the helpless victims of our affluent, throwaway society,” says Tim Wass, Chief Officer of the RSPCA Inspectorate. “They’re bought on a whim and discarded when the novelty wears off. Today’s must-have item quickly turns into tomorrow’s cast-off.

"Worse still,” Tim continues, “some animals are violently abused because they don’t meet their owners’ unrealistic expectations: like the cat kicked to death for having muddy paws or the dog strangled with its lead for misbehaving.”

But the year has good news, too, with the success of the new Animal Welfare Act already starting to take effect. The new Act – which came into force during 2007 – has made it possible to take action sooner than ever before in situations where there are animal welfare concerns.

The Act is already producing powerful results in its first twelve months.

Where animal welfare concerns have prompted the RSPCA to give advice to an animal owner, that advice was followed and the problems resolved 92% of the time, meaning that no further action was necessary.

"Even in these early days, the benefits of the new law are clear,” Tim Wass enthuses. “Without the new Act, this year’s cruelty figures could have been even more horrific.”

Commenting on the 2007 cruelty statistics, Tim observes, “Dogs have always borne the brunt of cruelty – from violent outbursts to extreme neglect. But that’s what makes this year’s horrendous 34% increase even more shocking: it’s a massive increase on an already high figure.”

It was hoped that last year’s leap in convictions for cruelty to horses was an anomaly. But this year’s figures show that the higher numbers have been maintained – they increased by 33% between 2005 and 2006 - and then increased by a further 13% to 119 in 2007.

The rise in banning orders is a big improvement on the previous year, which had actually recorded a fall. The new Animal Welfare Act obliges courts to explain their reasons if they don’t impose a ban and this may have contributed to the increase. The new requirement seems to have focussed attention on preventative action which can prevent suffering and save lives.

"The main reason we take people to court is to prevent cruelty being repeated,” Tim Wass explains. “And it’s very reassuring to see the courts taking this seriously by issuing more and more banning orders, which prevent those convicted of cruelty from keeping animals in future.”