Soaring numbers of cruel animal shootings have prompted new calls for air gun controls from the RSPCA.
The animal charity revealed today that there were 126 gun attacks on animals in the south east last year with pet cats and pigeons among those most targeted.
In West Sussex alone, there were 10 such cruel shootings. Altogether, there were 767 reports of animals being shot in 2018 across England and Wales.
Now the RSPCA, whose head office is at Southwater, near Horsham, is calling for the licensing of air guns.
The RSPCA’s records also showed that pet cats bore the brunt of the shootings with 258 incidents in 2018 with a rise in incidents during the summer months.
As well as mandatory licensing, the animal charity is also calling for a range of measures to tackle the problem of air guns.
Dermot Murphy, RSPCA chief inspectorate officer said: “Animals are suffering horrendous injuries and often dying as a result of airgun attacks and these weapons are also potentially extremely dangerous for people.
“Every one of the 258 pet cats and 73 dogs deliberately killed or maimed last year by people using air guns represents a devastated family.
“And the cruelty continues, with large numbers of wild mammals and birds, including foxes, squirrels, swans, gulls and pigeons targeted as well.
“We believe air gun misuse is happening on a large scale and what we see at the RSPCA could be the tip of the iceberg.
“We believe that stricter controls are long overdue. Mandatory licensing would be an effective start, but we also need improved enforcement of airgun legislation as well as better, more targeted education and explanation of the law for those buying one.”
Nearly half of vets who replied to a British Veterinary Association survey in 2016 said they had treated cats which had been victims of airgun crime and nearly half those incidents had proved fatal.
A Government review into the use of airguns after the death of a boy concluded 18 months ago but has yet to report its conclusions and recommendations. A significant proportion of the 50,000 public responses to the government’s air weapons review were about the use of these weapons against animals such as cats.
Dermot added: “We are disappointed that 18 months after it concluded the Government have still yet to say how they will improve the management and use of airguns despite evidence given to them on the suffering caused to animals through their misuse.
“Animals continue to be maimed and killed every year so the RSPCA is calling on the Government to bring in tighter restrictions such as licensing, which we know in Scotland worked, resulting in a 75 per cent drop in animal related complaints in its first year.”