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Vets call for strong welfare enforcement as 4 in 10 see cats with airgun injuries

BVA | British Veterinary Association

4 min read Partner content

4 in 10 vets have seen cats with airgun injuries in the last year, with many of these animals seriously injured as well as dying from their wounds, a British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey shows.

The latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey asked companion animal vets if they had seen any cats brought to them with airgun or crossbow injuries in the last twelve months. 41% said they had seen cats with airgun injuries. 1% had seen cats with crossbow injuries.

The survey results come as Cats Protection launches its Manifesto for Cats in the Commons, which seeks amongst other measures tighter regulations on the licensing of airguns. This coincides with the recent launch of BVA’s General Election manifesto that calls for better animal enforcement of animal welfare legislation.
Commenting further many vets told how animals had died of their wounds or were severely injured, including fractured limbs that required amputation and injuries to eyes that require enucleation (removal of the eye).

Several vets pointed to an increase in owners presenting animals with airgun injuries during the school summers holidays, pointing to the perpetrators being young people and children:
“We saw several cases of airgun injures in cats over the summer holidays, causing severe injuries. These cases seem to have increased in numbers in recent years.”
“They always coincide with the summer school holidays… this has always been the case.”
“A cat was shot in the eye with an airgun pellet and require enucleation. Sadly…  think this was neighbourhood kids having a laugh and the cat wandered into the wrong yard at the wrong time.”

“The majority are clearly inflicted by low-powered airguns at close range. This suggests children who have been given airguns and are looking for something to shoot. One answer is to encourage and promote shooting by young people in clubs and on ranges where they can be educated in a culture of safe use, the pursuit of accuracy and the notion of responsibility.”
Other vets advocated more stringent measures. One vet who had seen several cats with airgun pellets, with the animal often losing an eye said: “Airguns should be banned. Full stop.”
Another vet voiced the frustration that many in the survey felt.

“Cats get shot because idiots think they are fair game, injuries range from self-recovering bruising to long-term embedded pellets to eye loss.”

John Blackwell BVA President said:

“These findings are distressing for both owners and vets. The frustration of many BVA members who work in small animal practice is clear. Anyone using an airgun, whether they are an adult or child, should be aware of the very serious injuries these weapons inflict and parents should act responsibly when allowing any young person to use or possess an airgun.
“The comments from vets in this survey clearly demonstrate the dreadful suffering that can be inflicted on animals when these weapons are used in the wrong hands, without careful and proper supervision. Whether the perpetrator is an adult or child, it is blatantly wrong to shoot indiscriminately at cats in this way. We urge the police and local authorities to take action where they can and ask all parents to think very carefully about the consequences of allowing their children access to a weapon that can kill someone’s pet and inflict serious injury on animals and humans alike.”

Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager Jacqui Cuff commented:

“Cats Protection is always shocked to hear of cats being shot which is why we’re calling for much stricter regulation on the ownership of airguns. We know from our own monitoring of the press last year that nearly five cats a week were reported to have been killed or injured by airguns in the UK – and this is likely to be an underestimate. We also held a three-month consultation to determine what members of the public felt were the most important issues for cat welfare and 98 per cent of those surveyed agreed this is one of them - which is why we’re including this important topic in our Cat Manifesto.”

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