The charity will be giving the recommendation as part of a submission to the UK Government’s current review of the regulation of air weapons following two serious incidents involving children.
The RSPCA has received, on average, 900 calls a year since 2013 reporting incidents of animals being targeted by people using air weapons.
Now it wants to see England and Wales follow the lead of Scotland, where airgun owners and users have been required to have a licence since 1 January 2017.
However, in 2017 the RSPCA still received 884 calls reporting air gun attacks on animals across England and Wales. A total of 4,500 reports of air gun attacks were received by the charity from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 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.
“The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter controls over airguns 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 airgun attacks on animals.
“Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of airgun 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 penalties faced if caught deliberately using an airgun 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.
Legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland requires anyone who possesses, purchases or uses an air weapon to have a licence.
Incidents in which an animal has been shot or targeted by someone using an airgun should contact the RSPCA’s national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.