The RSPCA’s annual figures for 2014 show that cruelty complaints investigated by the charity in England and Wales have gone up*.


The RSPCA investigated 159,831 complaints in 2014 compared to 153,770 in 2013. The number of complaints investigated in West Yorkshire (8,440) was second only to Greater London (12,202), with Greater Manchester (8,069) having the third highest number. Lancashire also made the top ten, in sixth (5,252), and South Yorkshire, in seventh (5,158).Dudley when rescued © RSPCA


A shocking 20,258 of these complaints involved alleged deliberate and often violent cruelty being inflicted upon animals.  This was up from 19,683 in 2013.


RSPCA chief veterinary officer James Yeates said:  “It is extremely concerning that we are still receiving more than 20,000 complaints about animals being deliberately caused to suffer and that’s 20,000 too many.


“Most of the complaints we receive involve animals being neglected or not receiving the right care and often we can put that right by offering welfare advice.  However, it is shocking that in 2014 people are still being deliberately cruel in what can be disturbingly inventive ways.”


Some of the animals deliberately abused in 2014 included:


  • A Staffie puppy, now named Dudley (pictured), caught on camera being thrown, kicked and having his head trapped in a door in Cumbria
  • A cat who had been hit by a car in Lancashire and whose attacker (a passer-by), instead of trying to save him, kicked him like a football several times. The cat had no chance of escape and later died
  • A fox deliberately set on by men with four dogs in County Durham. The animal’s attempt to fight for its life was filmed and uploaded onto YouTube. Magistrates were so disgusted they could only watch seconds of the 4 minute-long footage


2014 was also the year that saw five prosecutions relating to the Neknomination online craze in which several people took part in ‘dares’ involving swallowing live fish, frogs and even a lizard. In April a 22-year-old man from Tyne and Wear was the first person to be prosecuted by the RSPCA for swallowing a goldfish and posting the footage online.


Cases which had to be resolved by way of prosecution decreased – with 1,029 people convicted of animal welfare offences in 2014, down from 1,371 in 2013. Northern counties continue to top the table though.


Top 10 Counties

Number of people convicted 2014/2013

West Yorkshire


County Durham


West Midlands


Greater Manchester


North Yorkshire


Greater London


East Riding of Yorkshire




Tyne and Wear





The vast majority of RSPCA work is improving animal welfare by giving advice to owners and the number of animal owners who were offered and accepted welfare advice increased from 76,810 in 2013 to 82,746 in 2014.


James added:  “Our aim is always to prevent cruelty so it’s really positive that a greater number of people followed our advice.  Crucially this means that although we are still receiving complaints about cruelty we are often getting to incidents before suffering has occurred and helping owners to provide for their animals, whether that means getting veterinary care for them or just giving them the right diet.


“Sadly, though, where cruelty is still happening there will be a need to prosecute in the most serious cases and it is upsetting that so many people are still mistreating animals by deliberately causing them harm or by not providing them with the care they deserve.”


The RSPCA is a charity that relies on public donations to investigate complaints received and to care for many thousands of sick, injured and badly treated animals every year.  To help, please text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (texts cost £3 plus one standard network rate message).


* Complaints investigated can have any number of outcomes including prosecution and welfare advice, but may also include those where, upon looking into them, we could not find evidence to take further action, or where there was no cause for concern.


64,425 complaints of those received and investigated in 2014 were substantiated and had an outcome i.e. resulted in the collection of an animal; resulted in advice, warning notice or caution given; or resulted in prosecution.