RSPCA reveals shocking rise in animal cruelty concerns

PUBLISHED: 07:14 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:21 29 March 2017

Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate. Picture: RSPCA

Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate. Picture: RSPCA


Britain is thought of as a nation of animal lovers but RSPCA figures reveal an increase in allegations of cruelty and neglect from Norfolk and Suffolk in 2016. SOPHIE WYLLIE reports on the issue.

Suffolk - Wolf after. Picture: RSPCASuffolk - Wolf after. Picture: RSPCA

From four skinny lurchers and two German Shepherds living in squalor to three Staffordshire Bull Terriers who died in a hot car.

These are real cases of cruelty investigated by RSPCA officers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in 2016.

MORE: Case studies of animal neglect and cruelty in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

RSPCA 2016 statistics showing numbers of allegations of animal cruelty from south east England, including Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Picture: ARCHANTRSPCA 2016 statistics showing numbers of allegations of animal cruelty from south east England, including Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Picture: ARCHANT

During that period, there were 35,417 allegations of animal cruelty looked into by the charity from the south east of England - a 4pc increase from 2015 when there were 34,003 allegations.

Concerned calls to the RSPCA from Norfolk and Suffolk in 2016 were up 1pc and 7pc, respectively, from the year before.

There was a decrease of 1.3pc in concerns reported to the 24/7 hotline in Cambridgeshire in that same period.

Paul Stilgoe, RSPCA superintendent for the south east of England. Picture:JOE MURPHY/RSPCA.Paul Stilgoe, RSPCA superintendent for the south east of England. Picture:JOE MURPHY/RSPCA.

But despite the increase, the charity’s leading inspector believes the surge in calls is because people are becoming more aware and less tolerant of animal cruelty and neglect.

Dermot Murphy, RSPCA inspectorate assistant director, said: “I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming crueler, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.

“People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.

“Either way, our officers are under increased pressure having to respond to more calls and investigate more complaints, but it is thanks to their dedication, as well as RSPCA staff and volunteers across England and Wales that we are able to transform the lives of tens of thousands of animals each year.”

The maximum sentence for people found guilty of animal cruelty is an unlimited fine, and six months in prison.

Not all complaints investigated reach that point with officers giving welfare advice on some occasions, or not taking any action if there is limited evidence.

Paul Stilgoe, RSPCA Superintendent for the south east, said: “I never stop feeling appalled when I look back at the shocking catalogue of cruelty the region’s inspectors are called about. We investigate such horrific cases of abuse and extreme neglect. Thankfully, there are some happy endings to remind us what we strive for.”

How to report animal welfare concerns

Anyone worried about animal welfare should contact the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty phone line on 0300 1234999.

Below is advice from the charity in regards to reporting concerns:

Take a note of what you have seen, including the date, time and place of the alleged offence.

Photographs showing alleged cruelty can provide vital evidence. If you have a camera to hand - and it is safe for you to use it - please do.

If known, write down the name(s) and address(es) of the person or people involved.

Get the names and addresses of any witnesses.

Note down the registration number and description of any vehicle involved.

Never put yourself or others in direct danger in order to report animal cruelty. In case of an emergency contact the RSPCA and/or police.

For more information about reporting animal cruelty to the RSPCA visit

RSPCA statistics

Cats and dogs remain the most common animals people contact the RSPCA about in relation to neglect and cruelty concerns.

The majority of complaints, 84,994, received by the animal charity nationally in 2016 related to dog welfare.

That was followed by 36,156 calls about cats and 19,530 calls about equine animals.

More than 1.5 million calls, averaging one every 27 seconds, were made to the RSPCA hotline in 2016.

During that period there was a rise in the number of owners nationally who accepted welfare improvement advice and notices - 84,725 compared with 81,475 in 2015.

Since the 2006 Animal Welfare Act was introduced, 20pc of offenders faced with animal neglect or cruelty charges have been cautioned; 41pc have been convicted; 8,706 disqualifications have been ordered by the courts following RSPCA prosecutions; and just under 1pc of charges were dismissed.

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