The RSPCA investigated 2,146 complaints about animal cruelty in Hertfordshire last year - with almost six new animal welfare concerns being looked into by local inspectors every day.
Cases brought to justice by the RSPCA in the county last year included a man who was jailed after admitting a string of offences following an RSPCA investigation into dog fighting after a training yard was discovered in Hertfordshire.
He was sentenced to a total of 24 weeks in prison and was disqualified from keeping all animals for life.
RSPCA inspector Cliff Harrison, who led the investigation, said: “Behind closed doors, the man was involved in the barbaric and brutal dog fighting underworld - a secret he kept well hidden until one of his dogs went missing one day and was found by a member of the public cowering in their garden nearby.”
On 5 March 2017, a black and white Staffordshire bull terrier-type bitch was found covered in wounds and scars. She was collected by a local charity and taken to a vet who alerted the RSPCA.
“This poor dog was absolutely covered in wounds - both fresh and historic - with bite marks, scratches and puncture wounds predominantly around her muzzle, ears and legs,” Inspector Harrison added.
“These sorts of injuries are exactly the sort of thing we see when dogs are forced to fight another dog and the vet agreed that the injuries were consistent with dog fighting.
“Veterinary staff said they thought her freshest wounds were around three to four days old so we suspect she’d been used in a fight just a few days earlier.
“Luckily for this girl - nicknamed Kali by staff - we were able to treat her and she is now fully recovered and receiving lots of TLC in RSPCA care.”
While Kali was being treated a number of calls were made to local vets and dog wardens reporting a missing black Staffie. Three different numbers were noted down, one of which was traced back to the man and two others, believed to be his friends’, which were later found on his mobile phone.
Kali was seized by police and placed into the RSPCA’s care where she is now looking for a loving new home.
On 19 May 2017, RSPCA joined Hertfordshire Constabulary to execute a warrant at the man’s home where they found three dogs kept in kennels in the garden, two of which were extremely athletic, fit bull breed types which were restrained with thick collars and chain tethers within the kennels, books and articles on pit bulls and dog fighting, and a treadmill and scales - often used by dog fighters to train their dogs and prepare for a fight.
Other incidents in the county included:
A seriously ill shar pei bitch who is thought to have been used for breeding was abandoned in Hoddesdon who was found extremely skinny, had an eye infection, overgrown nails and a life-threatening infection in her uterus called pyometra in May 2017.
In March officers discovered four dead puppies dumped in a bag in Hemel Hempstead.
Three underweight rabbits with matted fur, overgrown claws and fur loss were dumped in February in Cheshunt before being rescued by the animal welfare charity.
This year, the RSPCA is focusing on the plight of horses as animal rescuers and welfare charities struggle to cope with an ongoing equine crisis.
The charity’s Cruelty Statistics reveal that nationally, nearly 1,000 horses were rescued by the charity from cruelty, suffering and neglect last year (2017), and a staggering 928 horses are still in the charity's care.
The national horse crisis, which charities first highlighted in 2012, has since seen RSPCA officers routinely called out to abandoned horses every day up and down the country, with many of them extremely sick, dead or dying on arrival.
The RSPCA’s latest figures show the horrifying impact of the crisis:
The charity’s 24-hour emergency line received more than 80 calls a day about horses in 2017
The charity took in the highest number of horses into its care for four years (980)
The charity currently has more than 928 in its care
Last year the RSPCA secured 25% more convictions for equine offences than two years ago.
It costs the RSPCA more than £3m per year to care for the horses, excluding veterinary costs.
Many of the incidents dealt with by RSPCA nationally throughout 2017 concerned horses, and other equines. The animal welfare charity is today highlighting the significant consequences of the ongoing horse crisis.
Despite the efforts of the RSPCA and other equine welfare organisations, the crisis shows no sign of easing, with the charity struggling to find stables and funding to keep the large number of horses it has had to take in. As soon as one horse is rehomed, another is waiting to immediately fill the stable and, as a consequence, the majority of horses taken in by the RSPCA have to be cared for in private boarding stables at further cost to the charity.
In Hertfordshire in 2017, the RSPCA received 307 complaints about 226 horses, a rise from 293 complaints in 2016.
The RSPCA’s inspectorate national equine co-ordinator Christine McNeil said: “Up and down England and Wales, horses are being found sick, dying or sometimes dead. It is frequently the case that they have been abandoned and left to die. This is upsettingly very common and it’s a massive issue - a very sad one at that.
“We are constantly receiving calls to our cruelty line - on average 80 per day about horses alone across England and Wales - as well as messages every day on social media from very concerned and upset people asking for our help.”