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Air gun attacks on animals to reach five-year high
The most targeted animals of air gun attacks are domestic cats.
Most targeted animals are domestic cats

Britain’s biggest animal charity is backing calls for tougher legislation on weapons.

The RSPCA says that it received more than 470 calls about such incidents in the first six months of the year, compared to 455 during the same period in 2016.

“It is a depressing fact that every year hundreds of victims of air gun 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,” commented Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate.

“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.”
 
He continues: “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 air gun. 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.”

In 2016, the RSPCA received 890 calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline reporting air gun attacks. But the charity expects this to be topped in 2017, with 471 calls received by the RSPCA by the end of June and six months left of the year.

“July and August, when the days are longer and people are out and about more, are typically some of the busiest months for RSPCA inspectors investigating incidents of animals shot by people using air gun,” said Dermot.

The highest number of the 4,828 air gun 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).

The penalties faced if caught deliberately using an air gun 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.
 
Legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland requires anyone who possesses, purchases or uses an air weapon to have a licence. The RSPCA is backing a petition launched by Cats Protection to extend this legislation to England and Wales.

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

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 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

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Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.