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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July 2005, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Animal neglect cases 'up by 78%'
The RSPCA said it found 20,000 dogs lacking basic care
The RSPCA is calling on the government to strengthen animal cruelty laws after it recorded a rise of more than 70% in cases of owners neglecting animals.

In the last 12 months, inspectors saw 68,732 animals whose basic food, water and shelter needs were being ignored - up 78% from 38,514 in 2003-4.

This included 19,352 animals who were not given access to water, up 96%.

It is only the second year the details have been recorded and the charity said that may have influenced the increase.

The charity said dogs were most at risk with nearly 20,000 lacking basic care.

Across all species, close to 3,000 animals were suffering because owners were ignoring care advice - an increase of 90% compared with the year before.

How do people still not understand that every animal needs water?
Jackie Ballard

RSPCA director Jackie Ballard said: "These statistics are truly shocking and we must ask the government to take notice and act now.

"It is staggering that nearly 20,000 animals have not been getting access to water.

"What does this say about society when even the most basic need of a living creature is denied? How do people still not understand that every animal needs water?"

The charity wants the government to change the law to give owners a legal obligation to provide animals with basic care, such as food, water, shelter and veterinary care.

A catalogue of abuse has come before the courts in the past 12 months including a puppy which had its ears cut off with a knife and a dog with a tumour so large it dragged on the ground.

Another case involved three horses found living in piles of manure in derelict stables with hooves which had been allowed to grow so long they curled like rams' horns.

RSPCA spokesman John Rolls said the rise in cases was partly down to an improvement in the way the charity assessed cases of neglect.

He told BBC News: "This year we've been able to detect more cruelty that has been going on."

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