THE number of airgun attacks on animals in several North Wales counties has increased, according to figures.

RSPCA Cymru is calling for mandatory licensing of air guns after 70 calls across Wales were made to the charity last year to report attacks on animals using such weapons – an increase from 61 in 2016.

Animals targeted have included wild birds, cats, dogs and wild mammals.

One such report came as recently as last week when rescuers found a heron they believe suffered a gun shot wound in Buckley, which later died at a wildlife centre. The discovery was reported and the RSPCA launched an appeal for information.

According to the figures, during 2017 a total of three air gun attacks were reported in Wrexham – up from one the previous year.

In Flintshire five incidents were reported last year – up from two the previous year – and in Denbighshire six attacks were reported in 2017, which is up from four.

In total, 67 air gun attacks were reported to the RSPCA across the three counties from 2012 to 2017.

The animal welfare charity will be making the licensing recommendation as part of a submission to the UK Government’s current review of the regulation of air weapons, announced following two serious incidents involving children – one of whom was 13-year-old Benjamin Wragg, who died after being shot by an air gun.

Paul Smith, RSPCA Cymru’s public affairs manager, said: “The review around the regulation of air weapons is welcomed by the RSPCA and we hope our submission to the UK Government will demonstrate the scale of calls to us and remind decision-makers it is important to protect animals as well as people.

“It is heartbreaking that such a tragic incident has sparked this review and our thoughts go out to Benjamin’s family and friends, but we hope any future regulation of these weapons in England and Wales will better protect people and animals.

“The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter controls over air guns as well as better education and explanation of the law for those buying one. Our 24-hour cruelty hotline receives hundreds of calls every year reporting air gun attacks on animals.

“Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of air gun attacks and these weapons are potentially extremely dangerous for people as well.”

The RSPCA and British Association for Shooting and Conservation plan to stage a joint conference this spring to bring together key stakeholders from industry, the police, animal charities and others to find practical solutions.

The penalties faced if caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal can be up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act.

Incidents in which an animal has been shot or targeted by someone using an air gun can be reported via the RSPCA’s national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

Anyone who has information about the heron, which was found at a property on Liverpool Road in Buckley on Friday afternoon, can contact the inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018.

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