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13 July 2017, 10:35
RSPCA figures show there have been 192 airgun attacks on animals in Kent since 2012 which is the fourth highest in the country.
This year so far there have already been 21 reported incidents in the county.
Nationally the RSPCA says the number calls about such attacks is set to reach a five-year high. In the first six months of the year, it received 470 calls about airgun attacks, compared to 455 during the same period last year.
The charity is backing calls for stricter regulations around the use of airguns, following the introduction of legislation in Scotland which now means that anyone with an airgun must have a licence.
Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: "It is a depressing fact that every year hundreds of victims of airgun attacks are reported to the RSPCA. While wild animals are often victims, the most targeted animal is domestic cats that often suffer fatal or life-changing injuries.
"We receive hundreds of calls from devastated cat owners every year after they discover their beloved pets have been shot. Often it isn't until the x-rays reveal the pellets still lodged in the animal's body that it becomes clear what they have been subjected to.
"It is difficult to understand how anyone could carry out these mindless attacks on innocent animals and we are backing calls for stricter regulations around owning an airgun. This, along with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun, and requirements that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop could help relieve the problem."
By far the highest number of the 4,828 airgun incidents reported to the RSPCA between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2017 were about wild birds (2,003) and cats (1,814). This is followed by wild mammals (349), dogs (345) and farm birds (104).
Figures since 2012 show:
1. Greater London = 284
2. West Midlands = 257
3. Greater Manchester = 250
4. Kent = 192
5. South Yorkshire = 181
6. West Yorkshire = 178
7. Lancashire = 168
=8. Essex = 143
=8. Merseyside = 143
10. Nottinghamshire = 140
The penalties faced if caught deliberately using an airgun to injure an animal can be up to six months in prison and/or a £20,000 fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act.