ALMOST half of cats shot with air weapons in the last year have died as a result, a survey by an animal charity has found.
New legislation in Scotland will mean that from 31 December it will be illegal for anyone to possess or use an air weapon without a licence.
But in England and Wales, research by Cats Protection has discovered that dozens of cats were treated after falling victim to air gun attacks in the past year.
The charity wants England and Wales to follow the example of Scotland which is introducing new legislation over air weapons.
Vets said in 46% of the cases they came across the cats died as a result of their wounds.
It is currently legal to have air weapons in England and Wales without a licence if they have a muzzle energy below a certain level.
Cats Protection said that while fewer cats appear to have been targeted lately by people using air guns, compared to research it conducted two decades ago, more are dying from their injuries - something it said could be put down to the use of more powerful weapons.
Jacqui Cuff, the charity’s advocacy manager, said: “We are calling for much stricter regulation on the ownership of air guns, as we strongly believe this will help to protect cats and other animals from these shocking attacks, and avoid air guns falling into the wrong hands.
“We want to see England and Wales following the example of Scotland, where from next year it will be illegal to own an air gun without a licence.
“The statistics show that fewer cats are now surviving air gun attacks than they were back in 1996.”
More than 100 cats were shot by people using air guns in the north-west and south-east of England - the highest number seen by vets surveyed in the last 12 months.
More than three-quarters of the public surveyed said they would support the introduction of air gun licences.
Dr Adam Lynes, criminologist and lecturer at Birmingham City University warned there could be a link between animal cruelty by some people and aggressive behaviour towards other humans.
He said: “While it is acknowledged that a crime such as serial murder is incredibly rare, this relationship between animal cruelty and aggression towards humans may explain why some individuals commit acts of violence towards animals prior to attacking humans.”
Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said the findings of the charity’s survey are “concerning” for pet owners and vets.
He said: “Anyone using an air gun, whether they are an adult or child, should be aware of the very serious injuries these weapons inflict. Vets see shocking injuries caused to cats by air guns, so we want to see better enforcement of animal welfare legislation and urge the police and local authorities to take action where they can.”
Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice and Victims said there are no plans for a change in the law.
He said: “The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world and the number of offences involving the misuse of air weapons has decreased significantly over the past decade.
“High-powered air weapons require a firearms licence and low-powered air weapons are subject to a range of controls - including restrictions around their sale.
“We have no present plans to change the current laws in England and Wales.”
Cats Protection is urging any pet owners whose cats have died after being shot with an air gun to contact them as they gather evidence for their campaign.
The charity surveyed 3,000 people - vets, cat owners and non-cat owners - this month.