New figures from the RSPCA on animal cruelty for the year 2000 show a 9% increase in the number of people prosecuted for harming animals on the previous year.

The figures also showed the society responded to nearly 1.6 million calls for help in animal welfare.

Nearly 200,000 animals were rescued or picked up by the society – an increase of 16% on 1999.

Among the casualties were Misty, an elderly dog zipped into a bag and left to die on a rubbish tip and Obi, a puppy that was twice thrown from a railway bridge by a teenager.

Research by the Manchester Metropolitan University on behalf of the RSPCA, reveals the reasons why people – and particularly children – harm animals.

It found the main reasons were:

  • Retaliation – because an animal had harmed a person or they were jealous of it
  • Peer pressure
  • Influence of adult behaviour.

Tony Crittenden, the RSPCA’s chief officer of the inspectorate says: “This study provides the RSPCA with an even better insight into what drives people to abuse animals and how to prevent it. Education is, as we have always believed, the key to preventing cruelty.”

The society is launchinga new educational resource to encourage young people to empathise with animals. It says it can be incorporated into the national curriculum.

The RSPCA has a 24-hr hotline (tel: 0870 5555 999) or for more information visit www.rspca.co.uk