An animal welfare charity is calling for urgent action after research revealed a sharp rise in the number of fatal air gun attacks on cats.
A survey of 1,000 vets carried out by Cats Protection found almost half of had seen cats attacked by air-powered weapons.
In response to the research, the charity is calling for a change in legislation to restrict their sale and use.
Cats Protection’s advocacy manager Jacqui Cuff said: “The sheer volume of instances where cats are injured and killed by air gun attacks is very concerning.
“We are calling for much stricter regulation on the ownership of air guns, as we strongly believe this will help to protect cats and other animals from these shocking attacks, and avoid air guns falling into the wrong hands. We want to see England and Wales following the example of Scotland, where from next year it will be illegal to own an air gun without a licence.”
According to the survey, almost half of vets questioned (44 per cent) had treated cats which had been the victim of attacks by air-powered weapons in the last year, with nearly half of these shootings proving fatal (46 per cent).
Cats Protection undertook this research to mark the 20-year anniversary since it first investigated the problem of air gun attacks. In 1996, 74 per cent of vets had treated cats for air weapon attacks and just 11 per cent of these feline victims died.
The figures show although attacks seem to be less common now they are more likely to be fatal, which the charity suggests is because more powerful air guns are being used. Injuries to the head and body are most common, with many cats left blind or partially sighted.
Ms Cuff said: “The statistics show that fewer cats are now surviving air gun attacks than they were back in 1996. It is disconcerting that only a small percentage of the general public (24 per cent) would report these incidents to the police, and that 53 per cent said they would do nothing. This could be due to a lack of confidence that the perpetrator will be found. 78 per cent of people who reported an air gun attack on their cat said the culprit was never caught.”
More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of vets said that air gun injuries were more frequently inflicted on cats than other types of animal. And 86 per cent would like to see a change to the law to restrict the sale and use of air weapons, while 78 per cent of the general public would support the introduction of air gun licensing.
Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “These findings are concerning for both owners and vets. Anyone using an air gun, whether they are an adult or child, should be aware of the very serious injuries these weapons inflict.
“Vets see shocking injuries caused to cats by air guns, so we want to see better enforcement of animal welfare legislation and urge the police and local authorities to take action where they can.”
More information can be found at ww.cats.org.uk.
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