The RSPCA is calling for stricter controls over air guns as it is revealed the charity received almost 30 related calls in Cheshire alone last year.
Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity is giving the recommendation for mandatory licensing of air guns in England and Wales as part of a submission to the UK Government’s current review of the regulation of air weapons following two serious incidents involving children.
They also received 4,500 calls over a five-year period about attacks on animals using such weapons - an average of 900 calls a year.
Now the charity wants to see England and Wales follow the lead of Scotland, where air gun owners and users have been required to have a licence since 1 January 2017.
Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Suffolk, Dr Peter Dean, wrote to the Home Office requesting a review of legislation covering the use and manufacture of air weapons, following the death of a 13-year-old boy in May 2016 after he was accidentally shot with an air weapon.
David Bowles, RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, said: “The review around the regulation of air weapons is welcomed by the RSPCA and we hope our submission to the Government will help demonstrate the scale of calls to us every year and remind the Government it is important to protect animals as well as people.
“It is heartbreaking that such a tragic incident has sparked this review and our thoughts go out to Benjamin’s family and friends, but we hope that any future regulation of these weapons in England and Wales will better protect people and animals."
He added: “The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter controls over air guns as well as better education and explanation of the law for those buying one. Our 24-hour cruelty hotline receives hundreds of calls every year reporting air gun attacks on animals.
“Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of air gun attacks and these weapons are potentially extremely dangerous for people as well.”
The RSPCA and British Association for Shooting & Conservation plan to stage a joint conference this spring to bring together key stakeholders from industry, the police, animal charities and more to try to identify the scale of the problem and find practical solutions.
The RSPCA has released a list of where the highest number of calls about air gun attacks were received from. The calls alleged attacks on 519 wild birds, 341 cats, 125 wild mammals and 111 dogs, amongst others.
1. West Midlands = 54
2. Kent = 51
3. Greater London = 49
4. Greater Manchester = 47
5. West Yorkshire = 46
6. Essex = 29
6. Nottinghamshire = 29
7. South Yorkshire = 28
8. Staffordshire = 27
9. Cheshire = 26
10. North Yorkshire = 24
The penalties faced if caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal can be up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act.