Deliberate cruelty to pets on rise in West of England

Annual figures reveal more complaints of deliberate cruelty including a badly beaten dog, a dog burned and beaten and a rabbit microwaved

The RSPCA’s annual figures for 2014 show that cruelty complaints investigated by the charity in the west of England* have gone up once again.


More worrying still is that the numbers of complaints involving direct cruelty including beatings, improper killing, mutilation and poisonings have also increased.


The charity investigated 30,490 complaints in the west in 2014 compared to 28,560 in 2013.  A shocking 3,908 of these complaints involved alleged deliberate and often violent cruelty being inflicted upon animals.  This was up from 3,630 in 2013.


The counties featuring in the top ten list of complaints received were the West Midlands which was fourth on the list with 7,112 complaints, 971 of which concerned alleged direct cruelty; and Merseyside which was 10th on the list with 3,776 complaints, 512 of which concerned alleged direct cruelty.  Derbyshire wasn’t too far behind, at 11th on the list with 3,636 complaints.


RSPCA superintendent for the Midlands, Kelly Rivers, said:  “It is extremely concerning that we are still receiving so many complaints about animals being deliberately caused to suffer.


“Both the West Midlands and Merseyside were in the top ten counties to receive the most complaints about alleged cruelty in 2013 and 2014 – this is not a top ten anyone would want to feature in.”


“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 abused in 2014 included:


  • A dog named Tiki who was badly beaten in Birmingham;

  • A Staffordshire bull terrier named China who was found burned and beaten in Merseyside;

  • A rabbit who was put in a microwave and ‘writhed and screamed’ before collapsing and dying;

  • A dog hanged in an attic in Wiltshire by her owner; and

  • A cockerel tied up and put in a fox trap as live bait


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.  Two of these were in the West of England – one in Wiltshire and one in Herefordshire.


The pets most likely to fall victim to alleged deliberate cruelty nationally in 2014 were dogs (21,084), the majority of which (16,089) were reported as beaten, followed by cats (5,194) and rabbits and small animals (3,653)**.


But lots of owners listened to advice given by RSPCA inspectors. In 2014 the number of animal owners who were offered and accepted welfare advice increased from 76,810 in 2013 to 82,746 in 2014.  Cases which had to be resolved by way of prosecution also decreased – with 221 people convicted of animal welfare offences in the West in 2014, down from 255 in 2013.


The vast majority of RSPCA work is improving animal welfare by giving advice to owners.


James Yeates, the RSPCA chief veterinary officer, said:  “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).



Notes to editors

* For the RSPCA, the west of England includes Cheshire, Merseyside, Staffordshire, Shropshire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Derbyshire.

** Please note that one complaint may involve more than one animal, so the numbers of animals involved can exceed the numbers of complaints

Please note that 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.


Case studies and photos are available, as well as county breakdowns of figures.  For more information, please contact the press office on 0300 123 0244/0288 or email