The Scottish SPCA has described 2013 as its busiest ever year, with a record number of calls to its animal helpline, pets rehomed and wildlife saved.
Scotland’s animal welfare charity also carried out more investigations than ever before, with an average of more than one person being banned from keeping animals every week.
Calls to the Scottish SPCA animal helpline leapt to 228,143 last year, 17% more than in 2012.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Many of the calls we receive are from people reporting suspected neglect and mistreatment, alerting us to animals in danger and either wanting to rehome an animal or asking us to take in their pets.
“In 2013 our investigations increased from 17,373 to 20,111, we found loving new homes for 6,563 pets and we were able to rehabilitate and release 2,939 wild animals. These were all records in what was our busiest ever year.
“With the demands we are facing increasing rapidly, we are continuing to invest significantly in our capacity to take in and help animals.
“Last year we announced the £4.8 million extension of our rehoming centre in Glasgow, known locally as the Glasgow Dog and Cat Home. This follows the opening of our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Clackmannanshire and our rehoming centre in Aberdeenshire in previous years.”
Horrifying animal cruelty cases dealt with by the Scottish courts in 2013 included a Stirling puppy dealer who mistreated 57 dogs being jailed for eight months, a Larkhall man being banned from owning animals for six years for breaking his dog’s leg by throwing her down stairs and a Perthshire farmer receiving a lifetime ban for neglecting over a thousand sheep and cattle.
“We can’t be certain if cruelty is increasing as more people are aware of how we can help animals, which means we are possibly uncovering cases which may not have been reported in previous years,” said Chief Supt. Flynn.
“However, we know our inspectors were faced with a catalogue of neglect and abuse. While most of the cases we dealt with were caused by ignorance and a lack of understanding of what an animal needs, many involved wilful and mindless cruelty.
“Last year 58 people were banned from owning animals, which is a shameful average of more than one a week.
“We can be encouraged by the fact that so many people called our helpline because they care for animals. That’s a very positive sign and suggests overall we are still a nation of animal lovers.
“Investing in education is vital if we are to get our message through to sections of the Scottish public who don’t treat animals as they should.
“Our free Prevention through Education programme reached over 300,000 children in 2013, which is an essential and significant step in the right direction as this will have a profound difference for animal welfare in Scotland for generations to come.”
Anyone aware of an animal in danger or distress should call the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.