New figures show spike in dog cruelty since start of pandemic – with over 1,000 cases reported in Derbyshire

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New data has shown a spike in dog cruelty during the pandemic – with more than 1,000 cases reported in Derbyshire alone.

The RSPCA has revealed a significant increase in dogs being victims of cruelty since the start of the pandemic, with 10 reports an hour across the country. There were 44,427 reports of dog cruelty made to the RSPCA involving 92,244 dogs last year – a 16% increase since 2020.

In Derbyshire there were 1,005 reports of dog cruelty during this period to the RSPCA – of which 181 were classed as intentional harm.

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With a surge in dog ownership during the pandemic, the charity is concerned the number of cruelty incidents involving canines will increase in Derbyshire – particularly in the summer when it traditionally sees a surge in calls to its cruelty line.

Honey was on the verge of death when she was found in Heanor.Honey was on the verge of death when she was found in Heanor.
Honey was on the verge of death when she was found in Heanor.

The charity is also worried more dogs will fall victim to abuse and abandonments as the cost of living crisis takes hold, worsening financial pressures on many pet owners.

To help prevent suffering, the RSPCA has launched its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, which aims to generate funds to keep its rescue teams on the frontline saving animals, as well as raising awareness about how people can work together to stamp out animal cruelty.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Every year, we see many dogs coming into our care bearing the physical and mental scars that were inflicted at the hands of the very people who were meant to keep them safe and love them unconditionally. Our officers have dealt with all sorts of horrific incidents including dogs being repeatedly beaten, stabbed, burned, drowned, poisoned and left to die from starvation.

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“During the summer we see a rise in cruelty and this year, as we have seen such a massive increase in dog ownership since lockdown, we are bracing ourselves for even more reports. We believe there are a number of factors which mean summer is our busiest time. Perhaps there is boredom or pressures at home with children being off school which can magnify existing difficulties.

She has since recovered, and has been rehomed with a family in Derbyshire.She has since recovered, and has been rehomed with a family in Derbyshire.
She has since recovered, and has been rehomed with a family in Derbyshire.

“This year the cost of living crisis has added a further dimension and we believe we could see people really struggling to care for their pets. This may lead them to lash out or could see more animals than ever being abandoned or given up.

“All these factors mean that we need the public's support more than ever to help Cancel Out Cruelty. As a charity, we are bracing to tackle a summer of suffering but we cannot do this without your help, and we rely on public support to carry on our rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming work.”

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One of the worst cases seen by RSPCA inspectors in Derbyshire was that of Honey – a Husky-type cross dog who was discovered in Heanor in January 2020. Her rescuer, Rachel Leafe, said she was the thinnest dog she had ever seen alive.

Rachel had to gain access to the locked and empty property in January 2020, with the help of the police, to save the starving pet – who a vet later said was just hours away from death.

She had no food and water after being abandoned by her owner, who had moved out. Investigations later found she had survived for so long in the filthy house by eating food particles from tin cans and toothpaste tubs, as well as drinking water from the toilet bowl.

Rachel rushed the pet she named Honey – after her sweet nature and fur colour – for emergency veterinary treatment. Against the odds Honey began to recover, and was rehabilitated at the RSPCA’s Chesterfield and North Derbyshire branch – and she is now loving life in her new Derbyshire home.