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Animal cruelty cases 'just tip of iceberg' - RSPCA.

Byline: By Helen Fielding

A shih tzu so unkempt inspectors could not distinguish his head from his tail.

A rottweiler bound so tight in chains that it is unable to walk eat or drink.

These are just some of the cases that have led to the RSPCA describing 2005 as one of the worst years on record for cruelty to animals.

The charity claims it is being called to more incidents than ever and believes that the number of unreported cases of neglect and cruelty are also on the increase.

According to the latest figures, convictions in the region have gone up from 104 in 2004 to 129 in 2005 but these could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Martyn Hubbard, RSPCA Superintendent for Wales and West, said: "2005 will go down as one of the most violent towards animals. Sadly, despite our best efforts, there are those who continue to ignore our messages and treat animals with brute force instead of compassion."

However, the new Animal Welfare Bill, which the RSPCA has been campaigning for over many years, will ensure pet owners now have a duty of care to their charges.

According to the RSPCA, this is the most important piece of legislation since 1911 for pets.

Under current law, which have been in place for a hundred years, owners can only be prosecuted once suffering has taken place, meaning that pets could be past saving by the time the case comes to court.

Neglect is the most common cause of cruelty cases, according to RSPCA. In the case of the 10-year-old shih tzu Gizmo, when the inspector visited the the owner's home, they were unable to tell the dog's breed or which end its head was at until it moved.

When the dog was removed and sheared, the first time in two years, it was seriously underweight and had to have an eye removed as it had been shut for so long.

The owner, 37-year-old Wendy Callan, pleaded guilty to Birmingham magistrates to causing unnecessary suffering to the dog and was fined pounds 200, ordered to pay more than pounds 600 in costs and was banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

Mr Hubbard said: "The cases highlighted today show why the RSPCA will continue to prosecute those who feel they are doing nothing wrong in harming an animal."

Anyone found guilty of neglect or abuse to animals faces up to 6 months imprisonment and a lifetime ban on pet ownership.

Now the legislation has been passed, the RSPCA will be running a campaign to encourage awareness of the Welfare Bill amongst pet owners, as they believe much of the abuse is due to people not knowing how to look after their pets.

Although the number of cases reported and prosecuted last year will shock many, Mr Hubbard believes those responsible are in the minority and many people who treat their pets well.

"It is heartening to see how many of these cruelty victims enjoy new and happy lives once they are rehomed by our dedicated staff up and down the country.

"The pleasure these animals give their new owners shows that the vast majority of people appreciate the important part a pet plays in the family."

RSPCA national figures

25,784 animals not having access to water - up 104 per cent

34,337 animals not getting suitable veterinary treatment - up 79 percent

33,308 animals not having a clean environment - up 68 per cent

RSPCA West region figures

648 incidents where animals have not had access to water

652 incidents where animals have not been getting suitable veterinary treatment

686 incidents where animals have not had a clean living environment

CAPTION(S):

Gizmo, the matted Shih Tzu (left) found in Birmingham, has now been rehoused with new owner Frances Ommanney at home in Leamington Spa Picture, LORETTA BRENNAN
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 26, 2006
Words:642
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