Convictions for animal neglect and cruelty have risen by a third in England and Wales, according to an RSPCA report.
There was a 33.8% increase up from 3,114 in 2011 to 4,168 last year, the RSPCA's annual prosecutions report stated.
Noting that it is possible for an individual to get more than one conviction, the RSPCA points out there was also a 15.7% increase in the number of defendants convicted.
The number of those found guilty of offences rose to 1,552 in 2012 from 1,341 a year earlier, the report - which was released to mark RSPCA Week - said.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant called on judges to take these offences "far more seriously".
He said his staff, volunteers and branches are "struggling to keep up" in their fight against "a growing animal cruelty crisis".
"For us, prosecution is always the last resort," he said.
"Our inspectors investigated 150,833 suspected cruelty cases and issued 78,090 advice notices last year - these are extremely effective in improving the care of animals.
"However if there is evidence of a crime and serious animal abuse then we will take legal action to protect the animals and prevent further abuse.
"We also want to see judges taking these offences far more seriously."
Successful prosecutions relating to cruelty to small mammals such as rabbits and hamsters rose from 97 in 2011 to 354 in 2012, while convictions linked to the treatment of farm animals rose from 22 to 49 in the same period.
The number of convictions relating to the treatment of equine animals, such as horses, ponies and donkeys, rose from 230 in 2011 to 500 last year.
Animals rescued or collected by the RSPCA increased by 9.7% from 119,126 to 130,695.
The animal welfare group also helped rescue 64,000 farmed chickens from a flooded barn.
A dog being slashed with a knife by his owner and two tiny puppies who had been buried alive are among the "shocking catalogue of deliberate cruelty and neglect" which have been dealt with by the RSPCA, a spokesman said.
They also found more than 30 rabbits and guinea pigs living amongst dead animals in slurry-filled hutches and an emaciated pony pinned to the ground by his tether.
RSPCA Week 2013, which raised more than £395,000 last year, runs from April 29 to May 5.
'A CATALOGUE OF CRUELTY AND NEGLECT'Suggest a correction
Emmy, a Jack Russell whose tail was illegally docked possibly with a knife or pair of scissors, has been adopted by member of staff at the RSPCA animal centre at South Mimms, Hertfordshire.
The original owner was jailed for six months, the RSPCA said.
Weighing in at 15lbs 8oz Brooke, a Staffordshire bull terrier was just half her ideal weight when she was found by a member of the public. She had been dumped in a field and her bones were clearly visible.
Brooke was reluctant to stand because she was very weak. Her white coat was sticky and smelly and her claws were overgrown.
She received intensive veterinary treatment to rehydrate her and raise her body temperature.
RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald said: "This dog was in a shocking state and the fact that she's survived is testament to all of the people who have cared for her since then."
Brooke has a new home with someone who has helped nurse her back to health, the RSPCA said.
She was discovered following a visit by the RSPCA to an address in Leigh, Greater Manchester, after a report about a dead rabbit in January 2012.
The rabbit was found dead in its hutch but the inspector found no other animals at the property.
A few weeks later a dog called Chubbs was found dumped in a nearby playing field.
The male brindle Staffordshire bull terrier weighing just 19lbs 9oz, had collapsed and was wrapped in a sheet and plastic sack. He was so emaciated that he died before help arrived, the RSPCA said.
Within 48 hours Brooke was discovered in a similar state but she was able to pull through.
Cassie George, 21, and husband Paul Hilton, 30, of Leigh, Greater Manchester, were given suspended prison sentences and banned from keeping animals for life after admitting causing a rabbit and two dogs to suffer.
George pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Animal Welfare Act and Hilton to four at Wigan Magistrates' Court.
Both were given 18 week prison sentences suspended for two years and they were each ordered to pay £500 towards costs in September.
George was also given a four month curfew order under which she has to wear an electronic tag and stay at home between 7pm and 7am.
Hilton was also given a six month drug rehabilitation order.