Reports of animal cruelty have increased by nearly 5% in a year, with the RSPCA receiving more than 400 complaints a day, latest figures show.
The surge in incidents has been attributed to disturbing images being shared on social media and the public being more willing to raise concerns for an animal’s safety.
The RSPCA investigated 149,604 complaints last year, compared to 143,004 the year before.
Yet these figures are still not as high as 2014, when the animal welfare organisation received 159,831 reports of cruelty.
Calls to the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty hotline also rose by nearly 4%, which amounted to more than 1.15million calls last year - averaging one every 27 seconds.
Some of the harrowing incidents include a bulldog being repeatedly thrown down a flight of stairs and stamped on, two snakes being decapitated with a pair of scissors and a cat being scolded with boiling water.
Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate.
“It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals, but equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.
“I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming crueler, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.
“People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.”
It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate. Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate
The RSPCA said that complaints investigated “can have a number of outcomes” other than prosecution, including issuing welfare advice and, at times, inspectors coming to the conclusion that there were no breaches of the law.
The number of successful prosecutions declined last year by 6.53%, with 744 people being convicted.
The RSPCA said that, when possible, inspectors try to work with owners and keepers to support them to improve the way they care for their animals.
“The fall in court action can be linked to the rise in the number of welfare improvement notices issued by the RSPCA - 84,725 in 2016 compared to 81,475 in 2015.
“This shows more people are acting on the RSPCA’s advice, meaning an improvement in animal welfare and there is then no need for court action, which is a good thing,” a spokesperson told the Huffington Post UK.
The majority of complaints received by the RSPCA in 2016 continued to be about the welfare of dogs (84,994), followed by cats (36,156) and equines (19,530).
Top 10 animal types by welfare complaints received by the RSPCA in 2016:
The highest number of complaints investigated were in Greater London (11,812), West Yorkshire (7,920) and Greater Manchester (7,708).
The most people convicted of animal cruelty offences were from West Yorkshire (94), followed by North Yorkshire (50) and the West Midlands (49).
There was also a rise in the number of owners who were offered and accepted welfare improvement advice and notices - up to 84,725, compared with 81,475 in 2015.
This is over 95% of all notices given out “showing the importance of prevention” in the RSPCA’s work, the charity said.
Since the Animal Welfare Act came into force in 2007 the RSPCA has secured convictions for breaches of the legislation relation to more than 25,000 animals, including 15,787 dogs, 3,650 cats and 2,525 equines.
Since 2007 there have been 8,706 disqualification orders on keeping some or all animals issued by the courts following RSPCA prosecutions.
“People might see these figures as a negative, and I certainly take no satisfaction from knowing that any animal has suffered,” added Murphy.
“What I do take pride in is knowing that because of the RSPCA’s intervention we have prevented many more animals from suffering at the hands of those who we have successfully investigated and brought before the courts.”
Warning: Contains details some may find distressing
Bulldog repeatedly thrown down stairs
The helpless dog, called Baby, was picked up and thrown to the ground, headbutted, her neck stamped on and her chest jumped on while the perpetrators filmed the whole thing on camera.
A number of clips showed one of two defendants picking Baby up at the top of some wooden stairs - on one occasion lifting her high over his head, heard saying “should I?” - and repeatedly throwing her down the steps.
At a hearing in March last year, the two men pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to Baby by subjecting her to unnecessary physical violence, an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
They were sentenced to 21 weeks in prison suspended for two years, a six months tagged curfew between the hours of 8pm and 6am and ordered to pay £300 costs. They were banned from keeping animals for life with no appeal for 20 years.
Baby was put down after losing the use of her back legs about three months after the video was recorded.
Litter of five-week-old puppies dumped in a plastic bucket days before Christmas
The six tiny puppies were left on a cottage doorstep in Halebourne Lane, Chobham in Surrey.
The lurcher puppies were all given nicknames after Santa’s reindeer as they were dumped just six days before Christmas.
Sadly one pup - Dasher - died of parvo virus a few days later but the rest of the litter recovered in the care of the RSPCA’s nearby Millbrook Animal Centre.
Liz Wood, the centre’s deputy manager, said: “We think the person that had them may have possibly bred them to be sold as Christmas presents and then as the litter started to get ill rather than take them to a vet like any loving pet-owner would do they chose to dump them.”
A boa constrictor and a royal python decapitated
RSPCA inspector Dawn Burrell, who investigated, said: “They were not small snakes - the boa constrictor was two metres long and the Royal (ball) python was one-and-a-half metres long - and it would have taken some force to remove their heads. They would have suffered a great deal during this incident.”
The snakes’ owner pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the snakes in July last year.
She was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years, disqualified from keeping animals for five years and ordered to pay £100 costs.
Inspector Burrell said: “This is one of the most horrific cases of animal cruelty I have ever dealt with in my time at the RSPCA. The snakes would have suffered tremendously.”
Pet cat injured after a man threw boiling water at her
When 16-year-old Geri the tabby cat went missing from her home in Coventry in October 2015, her owners became increasingly worried.
RSPCA inspector Louise Marston, who investigated the incident, said: “Geri had gone missing one night, which was not like her at all.
“The next morning her owners found her in a lot of pain and distress, but it was not immediately obvious what had happened to her. It was only when her fur started falling out and her skin looked sore that a vet said she was suffering from burn injuries.”
After Inspector Marston began her investigations, it transpired that a neighbour had thrown boiling water over Geri, after she went to the toilet in his garden.
The man was jailed for 12 weeks, banned from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £538.94 in costs.
Badgers dug out of a sett
Five men from Bradford appeared in court after the chilling footage was posted on Instagram of dogs being put down a sett and being encouraged to attack badgers. The men then posed with the dead badgers.
RSPCA inspector Danielle Grimshaw said: “The videos show the men putting dogs down a set and encouraging them onto an escaping badger, and pulling badgers out and throwing them to waiting dogs.
“They’re goading the dogs, they’re laughing. All the time you can hear the badgers screaming. They hit the badgers with spades, hold them down while they’re being mauled and kick them like footballs.”
All five men were convicted.