MORE than 100 airgun attacks on animals in Hampshire have been reported to the RSPCA over the last five years.

The figures come as the national animal welfare charity has called for tougher legislation on weapons with the figure set to reach a five-year high by the end of 2017.

Since 2012, 113 calls have been made to the RSPCA in Hampshire, the 13th highest in the country.

The charity is backing calls for stricter regulations around the use of airguns, following the introduction of legislation in Scotland which now means that anyone with an airgun must have a licence.

Anyone caught using an air weapon to injure an animal can be given up to six months in prison, a £20,000 fine, or both.

Chief Inspector Paul Williams, who is based in Southampton, said that wild animals are often the victims, but that domestic cats are the most targeted.

CI Williams said: “We receive hundreds of calls from devastated cat owners every year after they discover their beloved pets have been shot.

“Often it isn’t until the x-rays reveal the pellets still lodged in the body that it becomes clear what they have been subjected to.

“It is difficult to understand how anyone could carry out these mindless attacks on innocent animals and we are backing calls for stricter regulations around owning an airgun.”

The figure this year is set to represent a five-year high, with 470 calls received by the RSPCA in the first six months, compared to 455 during the same period in 2016.

Last year also saw the highest number of calls in Hampshire over the five-year period, with 37 reports of incidents involving airguns.

Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate said: “July and August, when the days are longer and people are out and about more, are typically some of the busiest months for RSPCA inspectors investigating incidents of animals being shot by people.

“It is a worrying sign that there could be a rise in the number of calls reporting animals that have been shot using air weapons.

“People need to remember the devastating consequences for both pets and their owners.”