An alarming rise in fatal air gun attacks on cats has led to calls for a change in legislation to restrict the sale and use of air weapons.
Around half of cats injured by air guns die as a result according to a new survey by Cats Protection.
A survey of 1,000 vet shows that many more cats are killed in air gun attacks than 20 years ago, prompting a call on governments in England and Wales to make it a criminal offence to own an air gun without a licence or permit.
Vets in the North West and South East of England had witnessed the highest number of air gun attacks on cats over the last 12 months, with both seeing an average of 113 shot cats.
The rise in fatal attacks suggests that more powerful air guns are being used. Injuries to the head and body are most common, with many cats left blind or partially sighted.
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.
“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 percent) would report these incidents to the police, and that 53 percent said they would do nothing. This could be due to a lack of confidence that the perpetrator will be found. 78 percent of people who reported an air gun attack on their cat said the culprit was never caught.”
More than three-quarters (78 percent) of vets said that air gun injuries were more frequently inflicted on cats than other types of animal.
Dr Adam Lynes, criminologist and lecturer at Birmingham City University comments: “There is an increasing body of research that examines the relationship between animal cruelty and the move towards attacking and murdering humans.
“It is argued that through the process of social learning theory (a theoretical framework in which criminal behaviour is learned) that some offenders will gain positive stimuli from engaging in animal cruelty which may lead to aggression towards humans – this is known as the ‘graduation hypothesis’.
“While it is acknowledged that a crime such as serial murder is incredibly rare, this relationship between animal cruelty and aggression towards humans may explain why some individuals commit acts of violence towards animals prior to attacking humans.”
Jacqui added: “If any cat owners have lost their cat to an air gun attack in the last six months we’d be grateful if they could send any details to firstname.lastname@example.org. It will help Cats Protection to collect more evidence about the scale of these attacks and continue to raise the issue with politicians across the UK.”