An animal charity is calling for tougher laws on air guns after new figures showed a huge rise in the number of pets being killed with the weapons.
A survey of vets conducted by Cats Protection found that almost half had treated cats that had be injured with an air-powered weapon and that the number of animals dying as a result had risen drastically.
It is now urging the governments in England and Wales to follow the lead of Scotland and make it a criminal offence to own an air gun without a licence.
The charity’s research found that in the last year 44 per cent of vets had treated cats injured by air guns and almost half of the shootings (46 per cent) proved fatal.
It has also released a hard-hitting video to highlight the issue.
The study was conducted to mark 20 years since Cats Protection first investigated the issue of air gun attacks. It showed that although the proportion of vets reporting shootings had fallen since 1996 (down from 74 per cent), far more of the victims they treated died from their injuries (up from 11 per cent).
The charity says that 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 which survive being shot left blind or partially sighted.
Vets surveyed 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 around 100 shot cats.
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.”
Currently in England and Wales, anyone over the age of 14 can use an air gun on private property, with the only requirement being that under-17s are supervised by an adult.
Licences are only required for weapons with a muzzle energy over a certain level.
In contrast, in Scotland from December it will be illegal to possess any air gun without a licence. Anyone found guilty of the new offence could be fined or face up to two years in prison
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.”
A ‘keeping cats safe’ information leaflet can also be downloaded from Cats Protection’s website at www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/care-leaflets/essential-guides