A report by an animal welfare charity has revealed that Hampshire is an ‘animal cruelty hotspot’ in the UK.

The RSPCA revealed it had received 2,442 reports of intentional cruelty to animals from across the county in the past five years, with 286 in 2020. This puts Hampshire tenth in the UK in its figures, with Greater London at the top.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, warned of a rise in reports in the next few months, saying: “We always sadly see a rise in cruelty during the summer months. As well as more people being out and about in the longer sunny days, seeing and reporting abuse, we feel there are a number of factors which contribute to this rise.

“Unfortunately, the hot summer days can lead to more people drinking alcohol in the sun which can be a factor in causing violence. There could also be boredom during the long holidays and more pressures at home - when the whole family is on holiday from school and work, existing difficulties in the home can be magnified. During these hot months, calls to our cruelty line rise, putting more pressure on our already stretched frontline rescue teams.

“Police forces reported a rise in domestic violence last year during lockdown and we are concerned that similar pressures which led to this rise may also have impacted on more cruelty to animals behind closed doors during the pandemic.”

Following the reports, the charity has launched its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, which aims to raise funds for its rescue teams to keep supporting injured animals. Beatings, knife crime, drowning and intentional killing are just some of the horrific incidents the teams deal with every day.

The charity said that the problems could be exacerbated following the end of lockdown, with Dermot saying: “The past year has seen a reportedly huge rise in pet ownership and we know most people would not dream of harming an animal. However, we are concerned that, as we come out of lockdown and people return to their jobs outside the home or suffer financial pressures, we will see more animals suffer if their owners find themselves unable to cope.

“We are urging people in Hampshire to support our campaign to Cancel Out Cruelty so we can all work together to end cruelty towards animals.”

The charity has asked members of the public to report any instances of suspected animal cruelty to their hotline on 0300 1234 999.