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Charity calls for shotgun clampdown

PUBLISHED: 08:36 30 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 March 2010

A SHOCKING series of airgun attacks on animals in East Anglia has prompted the RSPCA to push for a clampdown on the use of such weapons.

It investigated 780 airgun attacks across England and Wales in the year leading up to September 2001 - including 72 regional incidents.

A SHOCKING series of airgun attacks on animals in East Anglia has prompted the RSPCA to push for a clampdown on the use of such weapons.

It investigated 780 airgun attacks across England and Wales in the year leading up to September 2001 – including 72 regional incidents.

The assaults included a gunman shooting an eight-year-old cat in Barnham, near Bury St Edmunds, in June, after which she had to have her front leg amputated.

Jonathan Shaw, the Labour MP for Aylesford and Chatham in Kent, has launched a Private Members' Bill calling for the age at which youngsters can use low-powered airguns unsupervised to be raised from 14 to 18.

The RSPCA's chief superintendent, Kevin Degenhard, said: "Animals can suffer horrific, slow deaths from people deliberately shooting at them with airguns. The number of incidents increase as the evenings become lighter.

"We believe airgun abuse is a problem predominantly among youngsters and this Bill provides the ideal opportunity to make sure that children as young as 14 can't use airguns without supervision."

The RSPCA is also calling for the introduction of licensing so that all airgun owners have a certificate outlining their reasons for owning a gun and their competency in using the weapon.

The incident in Barnham saw an airgun pellet shatter the shoulder blade of an eight-year-old black cat called Baghera. The vet had no option but to remove the limb as the cat's bone was too badly damaged to be plated.

Following an operation, Baghera had 10 days of complete rest before having her stitches removed. She then began the long process of adjusting to life on three legs. The family pet's owner, Nicola Pettit, said she was "sickened" by the attack.

RSPCA inspector Dave Podmore said: "This cat has paid a high price just so someone could get a kick out of firing an airgun at a defenceless animal."

Other distressing incidents included a 14-year-old tabby cat, Boris, having surgery to remove a pellet from his back after he was the victim of an airgun attack in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Mr Shaw's Firearms Amendment Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons today.

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