Published: 16:53, 28 July 2021
| Updated: 18:08, 28 July 2021
More air gun attacks on animals are reported from Kent than any other county, the RSPCA has revealed.
The animal welfare charity says it has received an “alarming” number of reports about animals being targeted by the weapons over the last 18 months - despite lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions keeping people at home.
Since the beginning of last year, 371 incidents have been reported where the caller believed an air gun or rifle had been used to target an animal.
Out of these, 24 came from Kent, more than anywhere else in England and Wales.
However the total number of incidents is believed to be much higher as often a bullet or pellet is found after the RSPCA have intervened when an animal has been found in distress.
Sadly, the issue in Kent is not a new one. In November 2018, an entire family of swans was wiped out following an air weapon attack in Benenden.
An RSPCA appeal for information was launched at the time after the bodies of the birds - two parents and five cygnets - were discovered wrapped in plastic bags and thrown down the bank of a stream in Stepneyford Lane.
X-rays to two of the birds confirmed they had been peppered with shot or pellets in the attack, which the RSPCA labelled "senseless".
Following Kent was Merseyside with 22 incidents then West Yorkshire with 19, Nottinghamshire with 17, and Greater London at 16.
The bombshell figures are revealed as part of the RSPCA's 'Cancel Out Cruelty' campaign, which highlights the deliberate cruelty animals are subjected to.
Findings have prompted the RSPCA to renew calls for greater regulation linked to the use of air guns - including better education for owners and a thorough explanation of the law.
Steve Bennett, the RSPCA's deputy chief officer of the inspectorate, said: "The last 18 months have been so tough for everyone, and it really beggars belief that - while communities rallied around one another in the face of Covid-19 - anyone thought it acceptable to spend their time taking pot shots at innocent animals.
"The fact we have continued to get hundreds of reports of animals being shot during lockdown restrictions is both startling and depressing.
"Pets are often the victim - especially cats; while wildlife are also targets of these callous acts. Animals can suffer terribly from the pain and injuries caused by air weapons, and sadly many lose their life as a consequence.
"As we bid to cancel out cruelty, the RSPCA continues to call for stricter regulations around owning an airgun in both England and Wales.
"Better education, basic safety training for owners and a thorough explanation of the law - including our legal obligations towards animals - could help protect countless animals from these horrible attacks in the future."