LARGE numbers of animal shootings have sparked renewed calls for air gun controls from the RSPCA.

The animal welfare charity revealed that there were 64 gun attacks on animals in the south wast last year.

In Dorset alone, 12 animals were targeted in 2018.

In July last year the Dorset Echo reported how pet cat Tilly survived being shot in the head with an air gun in Wyke Regis. Vets operated on her and removed the air pellet, but the animal was left scarred as a result.

Across England and Wales, 767 reports of air gun attacks were reported to the RSPCA, with the charity saying cats and pigeons bear the brunt of the cruel attacks. 258 incidents involved cats in 2018, with pigeons coming second with 112 incidents.

The charity is repeating its call for air gun control now, as it says there is a spike in attacks during the summer season when there are more daylight hours.

As well as mandatory licensing, the RSPCA is calling for a range of measures to tackle the problem of air guns

Dermot Murphy, RSPCA chief inspectorate officer said: "Animals are suffering horrendous injuries and often dying as a result of airgun attacks and these weapons are also potentially extremely dangerous for people.

"Every one of the 258 pet cats and 73 dogs deliberately killed or maimed last year by people using air guns represents a devastated family. And the cruelty continues, with large numbers of wild mammals and birds, including Foxes, squirrels, swans, gulls and pigeons targeted as well.

"We believe air gun misuse is happening on a large scale and what we see at the RSPCA could be the tip of the iceberg. We believe that stricter controls are long overdue. Mandatory licensing would be an effective start, but we also need improved enforcement of airgun legislation as well as better, more targeted education and explanation of the law for those buying one."

Nearly half of vets who replied to a British Veterinary Association survey in 2016 said they had treated cats which had been victims of airgun crime and almost half those incidents had proved fatal.

Mr Murphy continued: "We are disappointed that 18 months after it concluded the government have still yet to say how they will improve the management and use of airguns despite evidence given to them on the suffering caused to animals through their misuse.

"Animals continue to be maimed and killed every year so the RSPCA is calling on the government to bring in tighter restrictions such as licensing, which we know in Scotland worked, resulting in a 75 per cent drop in animal related complaints in its first year."