1. ITV Report

Animal cruelty investigations rise 5% in the South West

Max the Westie was left to suffer with a terrible tumour Credit: RSPCA

The number of animal cruelty investigations by the RSPCA across the South West has risen by more than five per cent in the last year.

These include the case of Max - an eight-year-old West Highland terrier who was left to suffer for more than a year with a tumour so bad it was described as ‘like something out of a horror film’ by an RSPCA inspector.

His owner, from Wiltshire, was disqualified from keeping animals for five years, and Max is now thriving in his loving new home.

The RSPCA investigated 27,019 animal cruelty cases in the region in 2016.

The animal welfare charity’s annual figures show that Wiltshire had the largest increase in allegations of animal cruelty in the South West - a rise of more than 19% from 1,429 in 2015 to 1,704 in 2016

Rise in allegations of animal cruelty in Wiltshire

There were rises of more than 10% in Gloucestershire and more than 8% in Devon.

Table of complaints in the South West Credit: RSPCA

Calls to the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty hotline rose by nearly 4%, which amounted to more than 1.15 million calls last year - averaging one every 27 seconds.

People convicted of animal cruelty in the South West

The number of people convicted of animal cruelty offences in the region was 93, down from 104 in 2015.

The figures can be seen in the RSPCA's Prosecutions Annual Report 2016, which is published today (29 March 2017).

Sam the Airedale is at the RSPCA's West Hatch centre in Somerset where he has recovered from serious neglect Credit: ITV News

Investigations by RSPCA officers included:

  • A man sent to prison for allowing his dog to starve to death in Bristol
  • Eleven people sentenced for killing wildlife in Dorset
  • Horses left to starve by a man who ran a horse training business in Somerset

Our reporter Hannah Gamlin spoke to RSPCA Chief Inspector David Steele at the RSPCA's West Hatch centre in Taunton. She asked him if the rise in complaints came as a shock:

The RSPCA’s leading inspector believes the surge in calls to Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity is down to the public becoming more aware and less tolerant of animal cruelty and neglect, rather than a sign that people are becoming crueler.

I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming crueler, 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.

– Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate