More successful animal welfare prosecutions were secured by RSPCA Cymru in 2016 than in each of the previous two calendar years – with a “catalogue of cruelty” brought before court rooms across the country.

RSPCA Cymru is calling on the public to support the introduction of an Offender Register for those who have been convicted of animal abuse and disqualified from keeping them, to act as a further deterrent to many of the horrendous acts committed across Wales. It is also supporting tougher sentences for acts of severe animal cruelty.

In total, over 2016, 120 convictions were secured in magistrates’ courts – compared to 89 in 2015, and 116 in 2014.

These 120 convictions relate to a total of 61 defendants, which – again – marked the highest number in Wales for a three-year period. A further 67 offenders were also cautioned by the charity in 2016.

In 2016, the RSPCA investigated 10,540 complaints of cruelty in Wales – equating to almost 29 every single day. The number of complaints investigated in 2016 increased by 6.5%, having stood at 9,895 in the previous year.

2016

2015

2014

Convictions secured in magistrates’ courts

120

89

116

Defendants convicted (juvenile defendants)

61

41

47(1)

Complaints of cruelty investigated

10,540

9,895

11,740

Offenders cautioned

67

42

74

Publication of these new statistics coincide with the release of the RSPCA’s 2016 Prosecutions Report, and a new report focussed on the history of the Animal Welfare Act in Wales, which has now been in force for a decade.

Throughout the year RSPCA inspectors once again dealt with horrendous examples of animal cruelty and neglect – many of which led to prosecution. Cases sentenced in 2016 include:

 

  • A Wrexham man being sent to prison for 24-weeks, after plying a Staffordshire bull terrier with cocaine, and brutally cutting the dog’s ears off.

  • A rabbit left to starve to death in a Swansea cupboard, with three corn snakes also found dead, having been denied sufficient light, food and water.

  • A Cwmbran couple banned for keeping dogs, after allowing husky dogs to become “the thinnest” an RSPCA inspector had ever witnessed.

  • A man fined after CCTV footage caught him using a catapult to attack dogs in Barry.

  • Five cats, a dog, a python and a hamster living in a dangerously filthy environment in Llanelli. The owners had moved out because the conditions were so appalling.

  • A golden eagle kept in squalid, dirty conditions in a Pembroke kitchen, surrounded by broken glass, a whiskey bottle and mounds of faeces.

Martyn Hubbard, RSPCA Cymru Superintendent, said:

“Each and every year, I am left deeply saddened and appalled at the level of animal abuse, neglect and cruelty we witness all across Wales.

“Once again, 2016 highlighted the huge importance of the frontline work of RSPCA, with a series of very diverse convictions secured in court, concerning a catalogue of cruelty. It was a busy year in terms of necessary prosecutions activity – with more convictions secured than in the previous two calendar years.

“This doesn’t suggest more cruelty is necessarily taking place – but that people in Wales are potentially more likely to report it, and tools like social media becoming more adept in bringing incidences to light. Clearly, however, big challenges remain in protecting the nation’s animals.

“From dealing with the thinnest husky dogs one inspector had ever seen, to rescuing a golden eagle left in filthy conditions in a Pembroke kitchen, no two cases are ever the same; and the RSPCA remains on hand 24 hours per day to deal with all forms of animal abuse.”

In Wales, the introduction of an Offender Register is an idea which attracts a strong level of public support – with an incredible 88% backing the proposal.

This follows calls from the charity to increase the maximum sentence available in England and Wales for animal abuse – at present, six months in prison. In Northern Ireland, the maximum sentence is ten times higher – standing at five years.

It is hoped a register of offenders will help deter cruelty offences, and better protect animals from falling victim to an individual who has already been disqualified from keeping them. Since 2013 in Wales, the RSPCA has prosecuted 11 individuals for breaching their disqualification from owning and keeping animals under Section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

RSPCA Cymru’s Assistant Director of External Relations Claire Lawson added:

“The Animal Welfare Act has now been in force in Wales for ten years – and remains the single most important tool at our disposal to protect the nation’s animals. Animals are now better protected in Wales than ever before – but more still needs to be done to ensure a framework is in place offering them better protection.

“During 2016, we again saw a number of animal abusers hit with disqualification orders from owning animals in the future – but it’s so hard for rehoming centres, pet shops and others to stop people breaching these bans.

“Almost nine in ten people in Wales support the introduction of an Offender Register, which would be a critical step forward in keeping animals safe and helping us to tackle some of the horrendous cruelty witnessed by the RSPCA once again in 2016.”