Convictions for animal cruelty fell by 20% in 2006, says the RSPCA, but inspectors were left shocked by some of the cases they saw.
RSPCA director general Jackie Ballard said: "Neglect has always been the most common form of cruelty, but these cases defy belief."
Here are some examples of cases put before the courts last year.
THE TERRIER WHICH ATE DEAD DOGS TO SURVIVE
This dog was abandoned by her owner and left to starve for months
It was only after the police were called about a bad smell emanating from a property in Peckham, south London, that this little terrier crossbreed was rescued.
She and two other dogs had been left to starve for months.
The other two died and RSPCA chief inspector Mark Miles suspects the surviving dog may have eaten their corpses - the only reason she is still alive today.
He immediately took her to a vet to be treated for severe malnutrition.
Within just two days, she had put on a tenth of her bodyweight.
Following her recovery, she was successfully rehomed by the RSPCA.
Meanwhile, the dogs' owner, Susan Poynter, 30, was given a 150-hour community punishment order and banned from keeping an animal for 10 years.
In January 2006, she admitted in court to causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs.
She told magistrates she was forced to leave the property when her partner went into hospital, and she could not take the dogs with her.
Chief Inspector Miles said: "These dogs were left to starve for months. She could have asked for help rather than abandon them to their fate.
"It was a horrible end for them and we believe the poor dog that survived only did so by having to eat her companions."
THE HORSE AND SHEEP PUT DOWN TO END THEIR PAIN
The horse was in such a bad condition he was put to sleep
When RSPCA inspectors found this skewbald gelding, he was so lame he could hardly walk, and had breathing difficulties.
Two women in Southwater, West Sussex, were supposed to be in charge of the horse but neither had called in a vet.
They were also looking after a sheep found to have a dislocated hip, meaning it was struggling to walk.
After examinations, a vet recommended both were put down to end their suffering.
In June last year, Horsham magistrates found the pair guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals.
One of the women was fined £400 and ordered to pay £1,073 in costs, while the other was conditionally discharged for two years and ordered to pay £500 costs.
Both were banned from keeping any animal for three years.
THE GREYHOUNDS TRANSPORTED IN HORRIFIC CONDITIONS
This greyhound was caged all the way from the Irish Republic
When Somerset and Avon police officers stopped a white van back in August 2005, they were shocked to find row upon row of racing greyhounds squeezed into cramped cages.
One of the dogs was in a cage so small, it could not stand up.
Under the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order, animals must be able to stand and lie down on journeys.
But Bernard McBride, 39, from County Tipperary, had been transporting the dogs to England from the Irish Republic like that for six years.
In September last year, Bristol magistrates gave him a conditional discharge for three years and he was ordered to pay £4,000 towards costs, after he pleaded guilty to 10 offences.
RSPCA inspector Glyn Roberts said the case exposed the "cruel practice" of transporting large numbers of dogs across the Irish Sea to fuel the racing greyhound industry.
"The cages were not designed for comfort and safety but instead for transporting as many dogs as possible per trip, solely for financial gain.
"This behaviour was shameful and must be condemned," he said.