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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In need of a loving new home: Soldier the Alsatian starved to within an inch of its life by cruel owner

-Shocking treatment among a growing number of animal cruelty cases
-Convictions for cruelty or neglect rose by a quarter last year to 1,341
-Others included dog stabbed with potato peeler, blind kitten dumped
in a carrier bag and bearded dragons left for months inside handbags

By Keith Gladdis and Simon Tomlinson

With barely a morsel of flesh left on his body and his fur falling out, Soldier looks on his last legs.

The once-strapping Alsatian cross was discovered by RSPCA inspectors weighing just half his healthy weight after being starved to bare bones by his former owner.

A view from above reveals just how shockingly close he came to death, with his body measuring just a couple of inches across at its narrowest.

Emaciated and elated: Soldier the Alsatian cross cuts a sorry figure (left) after being found weighing just half his normal body weight and (right) back to his happy self after nursed back to health by the RSPCA

Fortunately, he was rescued just in time and his owner has now been prosecuted for animal cruelty.

He now weighs in at a happy 42kg and is looking for a loving new home after being nursed back to health at the RSPCA's centre in Ashley Heath, near Ringwood, Hampshire.

But his story is one which is becoming increasingly common as convictions for cruelty to animals rose by almost a quarter last year, according to figures released today by the RSPCA.

Cases included a dog repeatedly stabbed with a potato peeler, a blind kitten found dumped in a carrier bag and a pair of bearded dragons left for two months inside handbags in a loft.

Shockingly thin: Soldier's owner has been prosecuted for animal cruelty, along with more than 1,000 others in the past year

Bright future: Soldier, pictured with RSPCA inspector Patrick Bailey, is now looking for a caring new owner after being looked after at the charity's Animal Centre at Ashley Heath near Ringwood, Hampshire

Some 1,341 people were convicted of cruelty or neglect against pets and farm animals in 2011, a rise of 23.5 per cent on the previous year.

A total of 74 prison sentences were imposed - a rise of 27% - including one for a man filmed kicking his dog and pulling him into the air with his lead while taking him for a walk.

There was also a 21 per cent jump in the number of disqualification orders imposed by the courts with 1,100 people banned from keeping animals.

The RSPCA received 1,314,795 calls from the public last year and had a 98.2 per cent prosecution success rate for the cases it took to court.

But now, on the eve of RSCPA week - its annual fundraising push - the charity says it is struggling to cope with the upsurge in cases.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: 'The RSPCA faces a crisis that is stretching us to breaking point.

'We show zero tolerance to animal abusers. Anyone causing animals pain for profit or pleasure will be tracked down and prosecuted.

'We need the courts and councils, police and people who care to join us in standing
up and getting justice for Britain's abused animals.'

RSPCA inspectors witnessed some appalling acts of cruelty including finding an emaciated dog alive in a home where another dog, two cats, a hamster and a rat had died of starvation.

Cross breed collie Beethoven had only survived after it fed on the remains of the two cats. His fellow dog Buster had died.

Jayne Bashford of the RSPCA described the scene at the property as 'truly horrific and disturbing'.

She added: 'Particularly disturbing to me were the scratch marks on the rear of the kitchen door where Buster had desperately tried to escape before he was found dead in his bed.'

A Wolverhampton man was jailed for 20 weeks in jail after he admitted 34 animal cruelty charges.

Beethoven was rescued and has now been rehomed in Liverpool.

The RSPCA statistics also record some amazing stories of survival.

They include the case of a lurcher-type dog which survived after two men broke her back and stabbed her with a potato peeler.

Maggie May was left to die but was nursed back to full fitness by RSPCA staff.

Statistically, the north of England has the worst record when it comes to cruelty to animals for 2011 with 1048 people reported and 533 of those convicted.

West Yorkshire was the area with the most cases reported at 216 with 82 convictions.

The Welsh appear to be kindest to their animals with only 84 convictions from 220 reports of animal cruelty.

Sally Case, head of society prosecutions, said: 'The RSPCA strives to keep animals with their owners wherever possible and offers advice on improving their welfare.

'Overwhelmingly this advice is followed, but where it isn't, or where someone has already harmed an animal there has to be a way of ensuring that animals are not left to suffer and the RSPCA is the charity people turn to - and we are struggling to continue providing this service.

'Of course we work closely with governmental and other charitable organisations, but we are the main organisation which prosecutes those who abuse animals and which can prevent cruelty to animals.

'We can't do this without the help and support of the public and we need it now more than ever.'



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