THE North East was last night named as one of the worst regions in the country for cruelty to animals. RSPCA officers took more than two people a week to court for mistreating their pets.
And Tyne and Wear was the worst area for offenders, with three people jailed and 54 others convicted for a total of 88 offences. It was named the third worst region in the country in new national statistics.
Durham was not far behind. The RSPCA prosecuted 56 people from the county for 90 crimes. The number of convictions in Northumberland was significantly lower, with 12 convicted of a total of 16 offences.
Among the most shocking cases was the discovery of the decaying bodies of more than 260 cats, rabbits and mice in a Durham outbuilding.
Regional RSPCA superintendent Dave Millard, said: “These animals are the helpless victims of our throwaway society. When their needs become too much for their owners, they are ignored, causing suffering and even death.”
The charity said last year’s Animal Welfare Act had made it possible to act sooner. Mr Millard said: “Even in these early days, the benefits of the new law are clear. Without the new Act, this year’s cruelty figures could have been even worse.
“Dogs have always borne the brunt of cruelty, but that’s what makes this year’s horrendous 34% increase even more shocking – it’s a massive increase on an already high figure.”
The RSPCA had hoped last year’s leap in national convictions for cruelty to horses was an anomaly. But the trend has continued, numbers increasing a further 13% – from 105 to 119. In England and Wales, there was a 26% rise in banning orders issued by courts, preventing people convicted from keeping animals. Mr Millard said: “The main reason we take people to court is to prevent cruelty being repeated and to demonstrate that animal welfare legislation is being enforced. And it’s very reassuring to see the courts taking this seriously by issuing more and more banning orders, which prevent those convicted of cruelty from keeping animals in future.”
The society has produced a county-by- county breakdown of cruelty for the first time. They show only the West Midlands and West Yorkshire saw more convicted for cruelty than Tyne and Wear and Durham.
Durham City MP Roberta Blackman Woods said: “I am very concerned. I don’t think animal cruelty should be tolerated at any level at all. However, I’m pleased to see that the matter is being taken seriously and that the police and the courts are going through, convicting people.
“We do need to realise it’s a very serious offence. Obviously I will raise the matter with police to see if the high figures in Durham are because we are tackling the problem well or if we have a particular problem.”
Nationally, there were 24% more convictions and 12% more investigations.
Couple's neglect of their dog reduced magistrate to tears
LAST month, a couple were banned from keeping animals for 10 years after the shocking neglect of their Rottweiler reduced a magistrate to tears.
Jade Angus, 20, and Anthony McKenry, also 20, of Duncan Street, Mount Pleasant, Gateshead, were found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering after failing to turn up for an earlier trial.
Meanwhile, two men are to face trial on charges relating to badgers. Christopher James Thomas Hindmarsh, 28, of Alwinton Square, and Justin Lang, 23, of Norham Road, both Ashington, appeared before Alnwick magistrates last month facing five joint charges brought by the RSPCA, which they deny.
Both are accused of three counts of interfering with a badger sett, and one each of cruelty to a badger and cruelty to a dog.
In November last year, a teenager used a hammer to hit his dog over the head six times before stabbing it in the throat, Newton Aycliffe Youth Court was told.
The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified, launched the horrific attack on the Staffordshire bull terrier-type dog, named Benson, after it defecated in the house.