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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
'Animal-loving' UK's tale of neglect
Cow standing in muck   RSPCA
This cow was left to stand a foot deep in its own waste
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By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
Animal protection specialists say neglect is the cause of most cases of cruelty in the UK.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which covers England and Wales, wants new laws to reduce suffering.

It says its staff responded to an average of one telephone call every 20 seconds throughout 2001.

It believes most cases of animal cruelty could very easily be avoided.

The RSPCA says the 2001 figures "show categorically that neglect is at the heart of virtually all cruelty cases prosecuted by the society".

Of 1,977 convictions secured under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act last year, 1,761 (89%) were classified as basic neglect charges.

Updating the law

The society wants the government to introduce a "duty of care" to help to reduce suffering.

This would place upon all animal owners a legal responsibility to provide:

  • adequate food and water
  • appropriate shelter
  • access to proper veterinary treatment when needed
  • proper room for the animals to exhibit normal behaviour
  • protection against mental suffering and distress.
During 2001 the society's staff rescued or picked up more than 195,000 animals, and answered more than 1,500,000 telephone calls.

Greyhound   RSPCA
Emaciated but safe: A rescued greyhound
But the RSPCA says it is frustrated that so many cases could have been prevented if legislation had allowed it to act sooner.

Tony Crittenden of the society said: "The vast majority of cases could so easily have been avoided.

"We must try to make the public aware of the basic needs of animals and the long-term commitment owners are required to give them. The 2,449 convictions we obtained last year are 2,449 too many."

Rate falls

The number of cruelty complaints investigated (123,156) and the number of animals rescued (11,947) were both slightly lower than in 2000.

Prosecutions and convictions both showed a slight drop as well.

There were 871 cases involving cruelty to dogs (1,175 in 2000), and 289 involving cats (256).

Cruelty to horses, donkeys, cattle and wildlife all increased, though there were fewer cases involving pigs and sheep.

Injured puppy   RSPCA
This puppy survived having its throat slashed
One case prosecuted by the RSPCA involved a puppy whose throat was slashed up to 15 times, leaving the jugular vein exposed.

The man convicted was imprisoned for two months. The puppy recovered.

In another case inspectors found more than 60 dogs and cats, some of which had starved to death, although there were 1,600 tins of pet food stacked in the house.

Matted heap

Elsewhere the RSPCA found a 12-year-old shih tzu which had not been groomed for a year, and which the inspector failed to recognise as a dog.

She thought initially he was a heap of dirty rags. When his long, matted fur was sheared off under sedation, the vet found he was wearing a collar which had become embedded in the flesh of his neck.

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