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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Every 20 seconds the RSPCA gets a call reporting cruelty"
 real 28k

John Rowles of the RSPCA
"The horrific nature of some of these cases"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Animal abusers investigated
Tilly the cat
Tilly was microwaved for five minutes on full power
By BBC environment correspondent Tim Hirsch

Every 20 seconds last year, the RSPCA received a call from a member of the public reporting a case of animal cruelty or neglect.

More than 130,000 of them were investigated, and nearly 10,000 pets were rescued, a rise of more than10% on the previous year.

Behind these statistics lie some horrific examples of sadistic behaviour towards animals, and some of the worst involved teenagers.

In Berkshire, a 15-year-old schoolboy set fire to a tortoiseshell cat with lighter fuel, and in Nottinghamshire, a kitten called Tilly was microwaved on full power for five minutes by her 19-year-old owner.

Amazingly, she survived after surgery but lost her tail and a hind leg. Her owner was sentenced to three months' youth custody and banned from keeping animals for life.



Rosie was allowed to go bald through neglect
The RSPCA wants to find out more about what makes young people develop the attitudes towards animals which lead to such abuse.

For this reason it is funding a new research project by Manchester Metropolitan University to investigate patterns of behaviour among young offenders convicted of animal cruelty charges.

The idea is that if this kind of behaviour can be better understood, it may be possible to prevent some cases of animal cruelty.

Previous research shows that attitudes towards animals are usually formed by the age of eight, so the RSPCA hopes it may be possible to stamp out cruel tendencies before they take hold.

Many cases handled by the RSPCA result not from a single act of sadism but from long-term neglect. Bliss, for instance, a German Shepherd from Leicester was found being kept in a filthy yard with another dog.

Eye disease

She was getting no proper food but having to find what scraps she could. She was half her proper weight and suffered from an eye disease.


German shepherd dog
Almost 10,000 pets were rescued last year
After being taken into an RSPCA rescue centre and nurtured back to health for eight months she was adopted by Annie and Ray Constantine.

They say she retains a fear of men, and at first could not accept that the food put in a bowl was for her, as she was so used to scavenging from rubbish bins.

The record number of calls to the RSPCA does not mean we are getting crueller.

It may well be that the growing profile of the society through TV programmes means that people are more likely to alert them.

But today's figures do show that for a nation of animal lovers, the catalogue of cruelty in Britain remains depressingly high.

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See also:

09 May 00 | UK
The chain of cruelty
03 Apr 00 | Wales
Uncovering the badger-baiters
23 Feb 00 | Scotland
Wildlife offenders could be caged
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