ANIMAL welfare charity RSPCA has welcomed the announcement the government will be reviewing regulations around the licensing of air weapons.

There were 4,828 airgun incidents reported to the RSPCA between January 1, 2012, and June 30, 2017. Just over 2,000 of these attacks were on wild birds, followed by 1,814 on cats, 349 on wild mammals, 345 on dogs, and 104 on farm birds.

In Dorset, a total of 70 attacks were reported. There was a sharp increase between 2012 and 2013 from four to 17 incidents. Eight incidents were reported up until June 30 this year.

David Bowles, RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, said: “The RSPCA welcomes this announcement and any review around the regulation of air weapons licensing.

“The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter regulations around owning airguns as well as better education and explanation of the law for those buying an airgun. Our 24-hour cruelty hotline receives hundreds of calls every year reporting airgun attacks on animals. Last year, we received 890 calls and this year looks set to top that and, worryingly, reach a five-year high.

“Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of airgun attacks and these weapons are potentially extremely dangerous for people as well.”

The review of regulations around air gun licences was initiated following two serious incidents last year, one of which saw a 13-year-old boy from Suffolk, Benjamin Wragge, die after he was accidentally shot with an air weapon.

“It is heartbreaking that such a tragic incident has sparked this review and our thoughts go out to Benjamin’s family and friends, but we hope that any future regulations around the licensing of these weapons in England and Wales will better protect people, children and animals,” Mr Bowles said.