Figures reveal that almost 800 air rifle attacks were reported to us in 2012.  The horrific attacks include several cats shot in the face and whose eyes had to be removed and others who did not survive.

There were 799 incidents reported to is in 2012.  This was an increase of 40 compared to 2011 (759).  Shocking figures show that for the first six months of 2013, 438 reports had already been received.

This indicates that the overall figure for 2013 is set to increase again as the majority of air weapon attacks happen in the summer months with an average of 60 reports received by us each month between April and August in 2012.

Cats are the second most targeted animal

The majority of the reports involved wild birds, but cats were the second most targeted animal.

Herbie the cat with one eye © RSPCAAmong the cats who were shot were Lady Guinevere, a cat from Finchley, whose foot was shattered by an air weapon pellet and Herbie, a 13-year-old cat from Harlow who was shot in the eye. Herbie’s eye had to be removed.

Some cats did not survive including Muffin, a seven-year-old cat from Claygate whose owners were devastated when she had to be put to sleep after being shot in her spine.

Although cats are by far the most targeted domestic animal, a little dog named Millie was shot by an air rifle in Harlow and was left with only one kidney.

Wild birds attacked included two gulls which died after being enticed with pieces of bread before being shot at close range in Barrow-in-Furness.  A third gull was badly injured but went on to survive and was released after we sought veterinary treatment for it.

Attacks are often deliberate

James Yeates, chief veterinary officer at RSPCA said:

X-ray of Oscar the cat © RSPCA“Cats and wildlife are often the target of air rifle attacks, simply because they are out in the open with no one to protect them.  The injuries caused by such attacks are horrific and often fatal.  These attacks are often deliberate by people who just don’t care about hurting animals or deliberately targeting animals to keep them away from gardens.


“Whoever carries out these attacks needs to understand that they are illegal and you face up to six months in prison if caught.


“The fact that we have received almost 800 reports of injured animals is deeply worrying and shows we still need to keep up our work to stop such attacks.”

We believe that many reports of animals shot with air weapons go unreported, often because owners just aren’t aware that injuries have been caused in this way or because the animals aren’t found. We are calling for tighter controls with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun and that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop.

The law and air rifles

  • It is illegal to shoot at and cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic animal with an air weapon.
  • It is an offence to have an air weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
  • Anyone in possession of an air weapon on land where they do not have permission commits the serious criminal offence of armed trespass.
  • No one aged under 18 can buy an air weapon or ammunition.
  • Young people aged 14 to 17 can only shoot unsupervised on private land where they have permission.
  • It is an offence if someone fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent under-18s from gaining unauthorised access to an air weapon.
  • It is only legal to shoot air weapons on land where permission has been granted.  All wild birds are fully protected by law and only named pest species may be shot – and then only under the terms of general licences, issued annually by local authorities in the UK.
  • It is an offence for people to fire a pellet from an air weapon beyond the boundaries  of the land where they have permission to shoot.  This would include firing a pellet beyond the boundaries of a garden.

Information on air weapons and the law can be found at The British Association for shooting and conservation website.

To report an incident of suspected animal cruelty the phone 0300 1234 999.

We can’t do it without you

To help the RSPCA investigate cases like these please donate online or text HELP to 78866 now to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).