The number of people convicted for animal cruelty offences in South Yorkshire has risen by a quarter, shocking new RSPCA figures have revealed.
The region had the seventh highest number of animal cruelty complaints in the country in 2014 – a total of 5,158.
In recent months there have been a number of high profile cases in South Yorkshire, including a cat shot dead in Rotherham, a horse stabbed in Barnsley and cats being poisoned with antifreeze, also in Rotherham.
Some 28 offenders were found guilty by the courts in 2014 for a total of 68 offences, up 25 per cent from 21 people convicted of 54 offences the previous year.
In South Yorkshire, there were 741 direct cruelty complaints in 2014, up from 723 in 2013.
A total of 5,158 complaints were investigated overall in 2014, up from 4,931 in 2013.
Among the convictions were a 24-year-old man and a woman, aged 21, from Barnsley, who were banned from keeping animals for five years after allowing their cat, Paul, to suffer so badly he had to be put to sleep.
When RSPCA inspector Paula Clemence found the domestic shorthaired tabby cat was collapsed, his gums were pale and he had no pain response in his hind legs. He was cold and covered in fleas.
Paula took him to a vet, where he was examined and given a body score of one out of five, with one being emaciated and five obese.
She said: “Paul’s spine and ribs could be easily felt through his fur.
“Sadly, the vet decided that putting him to sleep was the kindest option.
“She felt that had the RSPCA not intervened Paul would have been dead in just a few days.
“Afterwards, when his fur was shaved, the extent of his suffering was all too visibly apparent. I’ve never seen a cat so painfully thin.”
The man was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work, while the woman got a three-month curfew order. They had to pay £212 in costs.
The pair refused to sign their three remaining cats into the care of the RSPCA. They recognised Paul was skinny compared to their other cats yet they failed to address the issue.
When interviewed, the woman said two of her cats were registered with a vet but it turned out to be untrue.
Chief veterinary officer James Yeates said: “Most of the complaints we receive involve animals being neglected or not receiving the right care and often we can put that right by offering welfare advice.
“However, it is shocking that in 2014 people are still being deliberately cruel in what can be disturbingly inventive ways.”