ANIMAL welfare activists in have investigated more than 4,500 cruelty cases against pet owners in Hampshire.

And officers warn callous lawbreakers who persistently mistreat their creatures will be hunted down.

Figures released yesterday by the RSPCA reveal soaring numbers of mistreatment cases in the county.

The statistics disclosed to launch the charity's major anti-cruelty campaign reveals the group investigated more 4,586 complaints of cruelty in Hampshire in 2013 - 211 more than the previous year.

Their probes led to 93 convictions of owners - up from 87 in 2012.

It comes as the charity launches RSCPA Week - a seven day awareness initiative climaxing on June 22.

Those brought to justice include Southampton man Matthew Coffin from Vanguard Road, Townhill Park, who was banned for keeping animals for 10 years after causing suffering to his pet cat while showing off to his mates.

Shocking footage previously shown in the Echo captures the 27-year-old from swinging his 12-month-old cat Daisy by her tail, tossing her up into the air and violently bouncing her up and down like a yo-yo.

Meanwhile Marshall Lee, 65, from Carnation Road, Swaythling, was banned from keeping birds after being found guilty of a string of animal welfare failures.

RSPCA officers swooping on his house found he was keeping a variety of wild species in cramped conditions.

They included fout red-breasted geese hemmed in a paved patio with insufficient soft material to rest on and a bowl of dirty water to small to paddle in.

Nationally the number of complaints increased to 153,833 compared to 153,770 the previous year.

This resulted in 3,961 convictions - down from 4,168 the previous year.

Dogs were most likely to be mistreated with 2,505 convictions, down from 2,568 the previous year.

RSCPA external affairs head David Bowles said: “Whilst we are heartened that the numbers of convictions have decreased in most areas, the fact that we are investigating more and more complaints shows that there is still a culture of cruelty out there.

“We should be proud that, despite taking in some very damaged animals, we rehomed an incredible 55,323 animals in 2013.”

“Although there have been fewer convictions relating to dogs, we are still rescuing more and more.

“We don't pick and choose by breed or by the desperate lives that they've lived before they came to us.”

See to download a fundraising pack, volunteer for local collections or join an animal welfare campaign or find out about rehoming an animal.