Convictions for animal cruelty are on the increase in the region, new figures show.
Statistics released by the RSPCA show a rise in people being convicted of animal welfare offences in the North of England of almost 7%, with more than 500 in 2013.
The charity’s figures for last year also put two North East counties in the national top ten for convictions, with County Durham coming in second with 100.
There was also an increase in numbers of complaints investigated in the North, with the total standing at over 38,000.
The RSPCA last night said the presence of cities with large populations, as well as issues around poverty and education may be behind the North’s high figures, claiming people here may be more likely to report cruelty.
The figures reveal a year on year rise of 6.6% in convictions in the North, from 531 in 2012 to 566 last year.
This is despite an overall decrease across England and Wales of 11.7%, from 1,552 to 1,371.
County Durham came second in a league of counties with most convictions, with its figure behind only West Yorkshire’s 126.
Tyne and Wear came in ninth, with 42.
The number of convictions in terms of offences in County Durham was 276, up on the 2012 figure of 247, with its number of people convicted up on the figure two years ago of 74.
Tyne and Wear’s figure in terms of people convicted was the same as its number for 2012, although there was an increase in terms of offences from 91 that year to 111 in 2013.
In Northumberland, there was a fall in numbers of people convicted from 15 in 2012 to 10 last year. There was also a fall in numbers of convictions from 50 to 17.
In the North, the RSPCA investigated 1,763 more complaints in 2013 than in 2012, 38,664 up from 36,901.
This was in line with a rise across England and Wales from 150,833 in 2012 to 153,770 in 2013, a rise of 2,937.
RSPCA regional manager Mike Hogg said: “The figures are usually the highest in the North of England, and of course it’s impossible to say for certain why that is.
“We have a large number of big cities in the region where greater numbers of people typically live. There also tend to be greater levels of poverty and education in these places.
“Another factor could be that people living in the North are more likely to call the RSPCA if they see something they don’t think is right.”
Dogs were still the animal most likely to be involved in cruelty cases, with 2,505 related convictions across England and Wales in 2013, though this was slightly down on 2012, when they were involved in 2,568.
The charity rescued more than 17,500 dogs across England and Wales in 2013.
David Bowles, head of external affairs, said: “Although there have been fewer convictions relating to dogs, we are still rescuing more and more and the fact is that the RSPCA takes in some of the most needy dogs - we don’t pick and choose by breed or by the desperate lives that they’ve lived before they came to us.
“I think we should be proud that, despite taking in some very damaged animals, we rehomed an incredible 55,323 animals in 2013.”
There were a number of high profile RSPCA prosecutions in the region last year.
County Durham horse trader's cruelty
A horse trader from County Durham was jailed last year after leaving his animals to starve in biting winter cold.
Eight horses belonging to John Harrop were found in a pitiful state in fields near Newfield, County Durham, by RSCPA officers in 2012.
Desperately thin, some were suffering infections, parasites, rotting teeth and split hooves and were immediately taken into the charity’s care.
Vets concluded Harrop, 33, would have known the animals were suffering for “at least six months” given their condition when found that February.
Harrop, of Green Lane, Bishop Auckland, denied all of his crimes.
But Darlington Magistrates Court convicted him of eight counts of causing unnecessary suffering to animals that December. Still unable to accept his guilt, Harrop, who claimed he “loves horses”, appealed against his conviction, running up legal costs to the RSPCA of more than £10,000.
But a judge threw out his appeal and put Harrop behind bars for 18 weeks last June after finding his offences amounted to prolonged cruelty.
He also banned Harrop from keeping horses or being involved in any way in their care for ten years.