Hundreds of animals are suffering slow and agonising deaths every yeardue to “deliberate acts of cruelty” by airgun users, according to the RSPCA.

Every summer, the society is bombarded with calls from the public reporting cases of animals that have been seriously injured or killed after being deliberately shot by an air gun.

Air gunThe vast majority of calls from the public voicing concerns about air gun attacks are received during the school holidays and the lighter summer evenings and the RSPCA is bracing itself for another influx of calls in the coming months.

Already this year, the charity has been inundated with more than 300 calls about air gun attacks and dealt with some horrific cases of animals being seriously injured in these mindless attacks.

Last year, the RSPCA dealt with a total of 759 animals who had been affected by the improper use of airguns and in the period 2005-2008, nearly 2,000 calls were received with people voicing their concerns.

However it believes that the actual number of cases may be much higher as many injured animals will look for a well-wooded or sheltered area in which to die so the RSPCA may not be contacted.

Animals such as cats and wild birds are sadly the usual targets for these callous acts but the offence all too frequently extends to dogs, fish and even horses.

The RSPCA’s chief veterinary officer Steve Cheetham said: “Unfortunately, we do see far too many cases of injuries inflicted by air guns every year. Many of these injuries are fatal but even those animals who are lucky enough to survive can have their quality of life significantly reduced.

“It is very distressing to think that people take pleasure in causing such horrific injuries to defenceless animals. These are deliberate acts of cruelty and I would appeal to people’s consciences not to commit such an atrocious offence.”

The RSPCA is reminding parents and teenagers of the penalties faced if caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal. Under the Animal Welfare Act, those causing unnecessary suffering to animals face a £20,000 fine and/or up to six months in prison.

It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of an airgun without supervision under the Violent Crime Reduction Bill 2006.

Anyone who witnesses an attack can report it by calling to RSPCA 24-hour cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.

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