As a vet in practice, the most distressing cases that I see happen when somebody deliberately harms an animal. This is not always obvious: perhaps some of the dogs and cats that have been in so-called accidents may have been deliberately injured? But there is one type of case that is always definitively deliberate: the shooting of cats with airguns. We see at least one case every year, and it’s possible that we don’t see many of the cases that happen in our area because the cats are shot dead.
Survey shows rise in fatal air gun attacks on cats
An alarming rise in fatal air gun attacks on cats over in the UK has led to calls for a change in legislation to restrict the sale and use of air weapons. According to Cats Protection’s survey, almost half of vets questioned (44 per cent) had treated cats which had been the victim of attacks by air-powered weapons in the last year, with nearly half of these shootings proving fatal (46 per cent).
Cats Protection undertook this research to mark the 20-year anniversary since it first investigated the problem of air gun attacks. In 1996, 74 per cent of vets had treated cats for air weapon attacks and just 11 per cent of these feline victims died. So although attacks seem to be less common now, they are more likely to be fatal. 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.
More powerful guns are being used
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 per cent) would report these incidents to the police, and that 53 per cent said they would do nothing. This could be due to a lack of confidence that the perpetrator will be found. 78 per cent of people who reported an air gun attack on their cat said the culprit was never caught.”
What about in Ireland?
The good news is that in Ireland, all air guns need a licence, whether a pistol or a rifle. There are tighter controls than in the UK, which at least means that if a cat is injured or killed with an airgun pellet, there is some hope of talking to the Gardai about licensed guns in the area, and then tracking down the culprit.