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29 March 2017, 05:00
RSPCA animal cruelty investigations have gone up by more than 5% in the South West, with inspectors investigated 74 new reports of animal cruelty every day.
The RSPCA investigated 27,019 animal cruelty cases in the South West last year, a rise of more than 5% compared to the previous 12 months.
Wiltshire saw the largest increase in allegations of animal cruelty in the South West, a rise of more than 19% from 1,429 in 2015 to 1,704 in 2016, with rises of more than 10% in Gloucestershire and more than 8% in Devon.
Cases also went up in Cornwall and Somerset, but fell in Bristol.
Nationally there were 400 allegations of animal cruelty every day last year, a total of 148,604 and a rise of nearly 5% from 2015.
Calls to the RSPCA's 24-hour cruelty hotline also rose by nearly 4%, which amounted to more than 1.15million calls last year, averaging one every 27 seconds.
The shocking catalogue of cruelty investigated by RSPCA officers in the South West included:
A man sent to prison for allowing his dog to starve to death in Bristol
Puppies dumped by the roadside in a bucket without water in Oxfordshire
Eleven people sentenced for killing wildlife in Dorset
Horses left to starve by a man who ran a horse training business in Somerset
The RSPCA's leading inspector believes the surge in calls to Britain's biggest animal welfare charity is down to the public becoming more aware and less tolerant of animal cruelty and neglect, rather than a sign that people are becoming crueler.
Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: ''I believe that the figures from last year show that we're not becoming crueler, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.
''People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.
''Either way, our officers are under increased pressure having to respond to more calls and investigate more complaints, but it is thanks to their dedication, as well as RSPCA staff and volunteers across England and Wales that we are able to transform the lives of tens of thousands of animals each year.''
The number of people convicted of animal cruelty offences in the region was 93, down from 104 in 2015. Nationally 684 people were convicted, down from 754 in 2015.
The majority of complaints received by the RSPCA in 2016 continued to be about the welfare of dogs (84,994), followed by cats (36,156) and equines (19,530). There was also a rise in the number of owners who were offered and accepted welfare improvement advice and notices - up to 84,725, compared with 81,475 in 2015.