A British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey has revealed four in ten vets have seen cats with airgun injuries in the past year, prompting calls for tighter regulation.

The latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found 41% of companion animal vets had cats brought to them with airgun injuries in the past 12 months, and 1% had seen crossbow injuries.

The results come as Cats Protection launches its Manifesto for Cats in the Commons (February 10), which seeks, among other measures, tighter regulations on the licensing of airguns.

This coincides with the launch of BVA’s general election manifesto that calls for better animal enforcement of animal welfare legislation.

In the survey, many vets told how animals had died of their wounds or were severely injured, including fractured limbs that required amputation and injuries to eyes that required enucleation.

Several vets pointed to an increase in owners presenting animals with airgun injuries during the school summer holidays.

“We saw several cases of airgun injures in cats over the summer holidays, causing severe injuries. These cases seem to have increased in numbers in recent years.

“The majority are clearly inflicted by low-powered airguns at close range. This suggests children have been given airguns and are looking for something to shoot. One answer is to encourage and promote shooting by young people in clubs and on ranges where they can be educated in a culture of safe use, the pursuit of accuracy and the notion of responsibility,” one respondent said.

Other vets advocated more stringent measures, with one vet calling for a ban on airguns.

BVA president John Blackwell said: “These findings are distressing for both owners and vets. Whether the perpetrator is an adult or child, it is blatantly wrong to shoot indiscriminately at cats in this way.

“We urge the police and local authorities to take action where they can and ask all parents to think very carefully about the consequences of allowing their children access to a weapon that can kill someone’s pet and inflict serious injury on animals and humans alike.”

Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager Jacqui Cuff commented: “Cats Protection is always shocked to hear of cats being shot, which is why we’re calling for much stricter regulation on the ownership of airguns.

“We know from our own monitoring of the press last year that nearly five cats a week were reported to have been killed or injured by airguns in the UK – and this is likely to be an underestimate.

“We also held a three-month consultation to determine what members of the public felt were the most important issues for cat welfare and 98% of those surveyed agreed this is one of them – which is why we’re including this important topic in our Cat Manifesto.”
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