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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Swans used as 'target practice'
Six swans have been shot in recent months
The RSPCA is calling for a change in the law to reduce the number of animals being shot by airguns.

The charity investigated nearly 800 attacks in the past year but says many more went unreported.

It is also urging for a change in law so the age limit on using airguns is raised.

Six swans have been shot on the Wyrley to Essington Canal around the Sneyd Basin in the past six months.

'Target practice'

In the latest attack a week ago, one bird was shot twice in the head.

RSPCA inspector Matt Dixon urged people to report any cruelty incidents quickly.

"At least one swan a month is dying as thugs with airguns use them for little more than target practice," he said.

"No-one can condone behaviour like that and I would ask anyone who sees someone attacking wildlife to come forward.

"I would also ask people using the area for recreation to be vigilant and keep an eye on the swans that use the canal."

Law change

The charity is supporting a private members' bill by Jonathan Shaw, the Labour MP for Aylesford and Chatham.

It calls for the legal age for unsupervised use of low-powered airguns to be raised from 14 to 18.

Mr Shaw is also working with the society to establish a licensing system for such weapons.

Inspector Dixon said: "People are often seen with airguns in the area and if anyone sees them shooting at animals they should contact the police and the RSPCA."

RSPCA 24 hour hotline: 08705 555 999.

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