Air rifle attacks concern RSPCA

RSPCA figures reveal that almost 800 air rifle attacks were reported to the charity in 2012. The horrific attacks include several cats shot in the face and whose eyes had to be removed and others who did not survive after being shot.

There were 799 incidents reported to the RSPCA in 2012.  This was an increase of 40 compared to 2011 (759).  Shocking figures show that for the first six months of 2013, 438 reports had already been received.

This indicates that the overall figure for 2013 is set to increase again as the majority of air weapon attacks happen in the summer months with an average of 60 reports received by the RSPCA each month between April and August in 2012.

The majority of the reports involved wild birds, but cats were the second most targeted animal.

Among the cats who were shot were Lady Guinevere, a cat from Finchley, whose foot was shattered by an air weapon pellet and Theo, a five-year-old black cat from Paignton who was shot in the abdomen.

Herbie, a13-year-old cat from Harlow was shot in the eye.  It was only when Herbie’s owner took him to the vet that he found out his pet had been shot. Herbie’s eye had to be removed.

Some cats did not survive including Muffin, a seven-year-old cat from Claygate whose owners were devastated when she had to be put to sleep after being shot in her spine.

Although cats are by far the most targeted domestic animal, a little dog named Millie was shot by an air rifle in Harlow and was left with only one kidney.

Wild birds attacked included two gulls which died after being enticed with pieces of bread before being shot at close range in Barrow-in-Furness.  A third gull was badly injured but went on to survive and was released after the RSPCA sought veterinary treatment for it.

James Yeates, chief veterinary officer at RSPCA said: “Cats and wildlife are often the target of air rifle attacks, simply because they are out in the open with no one to protect them.  The injuries caused by such attacks are horrific and often fatal.  These attacks are often deliberate by people who just don’t care about hurting animals or deliberately targeting animals to keep them away from gardens.

“Whoever carries out these attacks needs to understand that they are illegal and you face up to six months in prison if caught.

“The fact that we have received almost 800 reports of injured animals is deeply worrying and shows we still need to keep up our work to stop such attacks.”

The RSPCA believes that a great many reports of animals shot with air weapons go unreported, often because owners just aren’t aware that injuries have been caused in this way or because the animals aren’t found. We are calling tighter controls with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun and that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop.

The law and air rifles

  • It is illegal to shoot at and cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic animal with an air weapon
  • It is only legal to shoot certain wildlife under a pest control licence and then animals and birds must be shot and killed humanely, which is usually not the case in many of the reports received by the RSPCA.
  • Air weapons may only be used by 14-17 year olds in public places if they are supervised.  They cannot buy, receive or hire air rifles and weapons must be looked after by someone aged 18 or over.
  • Under 14s can only use air weapons under supervision on private premises.
  • Air weapons cannot be used beyond the boundaries of land on which you have permission to shoot.
  • Air weapons cannot be used within 50 feet of the centre of a highway.

To report an incident of suspected animal cruelty the phone 0300 1234999. To help support the RSPCA’s work then please text HELP to 78866 now to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).


Notes to editors

Photographs are available, please contact the press office on 0300 123 0244/0288.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email:  Website:

Don't treat animals like rubbish. Thousands of vulnerable animals will be abandoned this summer, many in out of the way places like bins, in skips and on wasteland simply leaving them to die. Will you help us rescue them?