The RSPCA is appealing for investigation after a cat was shot six times with an air rifle in Stoke-on-Trent – the third time the cat has been shot in the last 12 months.

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Two-year-old Dante was rushed to a vet on the morning of Wednesday 5 July by his concerned owners after he returned to his home in Trent Valley Road with a wound to the side of his body.

An x-ray showed that he had six pellets inside his body and emergency surgery was carried out to try and remove the pellets. Three have now been taken out, however the remaining three are located near his spinal cord and the vet believed it was too risky to remove them.

Dante’s owner, Zeke Ares, said that the incident had left his family upset. He said: “This is the third time Dante has been shot in the last year. He has already been shot in his foot and the back of his head. We just can’t believe that he has been targeted again.

“He is such a lovely cat and we just don’t understand why someone would do this.”

RSPCA inspector Natalie Perehovsky said: “This is a deliberate act of cruelty and I am certain that whoever has done this is purposefully trying to inflict pain and suffering upon poor Dante.

“I would urge anyone who has any information in relation to any of these incidents to contact the RSPCA. While I do not want to alarm cat owners in the area, I would urge them to be extra vigilant and to contact the RSPCA or the police if they do see anyone acting suspiciously in the area.

“Thankfully despite the suffering he has experienced, Dante has survived, however his family have still been left distressed by what has happened.

“Anyone with information is urged to call the RSPCA inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018. The incident has also been reported to the police.”

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

The charity is backing calls for stricter regulations around the use of airguns, following the introduction of legislation in Scotland which now means that anyone with an airgun must have a licence.

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.

The RSPCA is backing calls for stricter regulations around owning an airgun. 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.

Last year, the RSPCA received 890 calls to our 24-hour cruelty hotline reporting airgun attacks

This is set to be topped in 2017 however, with 471 calls received by the RSPCA by the end of June, with six months of the year still to come.

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 airguns.

The penalties faced if caught deliberately using an airgun to injure an animal can be up to six months in prison and an unlimited 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.

Incidents in which an animal has been shot or targeted by someone using an airgun should contact the RSPCA’s national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/give or text LOVE to 87023 to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).