RSPCA releases new litter figures and warns of increased dangers as lockdown eases

The RSPCA has received more than 2,600 reports of animals injured or caught in litter over the past five years, new stats released today reveal.

The animal welfare charity is urging people who are going out more since lockdown restrictions were eases to ensure they are taking their litter home with them or disposing of it properly and responsibly.

Over the past five years, the RSPCA’s emergency hotline in England and Wales has received 6,466 calls about animals affected by general litter – like tin cans, plastic bottles and elastic bands.

There have also been 15,183 reports relating to animals injured or caught in angling litter. There have been a further 12,904 reports of animals and birds trapped in netting, which includes netting discarded as rubbish, but this also includes sports netting or netting put on bushes or trees to deter birds.

The charity’s frontline officers are regularly called to help cats, birds and wildlife who have got themselves tangled in netting, injured in fishing litter or stuck in rubbish, whether it’s a fox with a tin can stuck on its head or a seal with fishing netting wrapped around its neck cutting into the flesh.

Head of the RSPCA’s wildlife team Adam Grogan said: “Our staff are dealing with thousands of incidents every year where animals and birds have been impacted by litter – and they’re the ones that we know of. I’m sure for every animal we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives.

“Now that the government has eased some of the lockdown restrictions, we’re sure lots of families will be out and about in nature. But it’s our job to protect nature and that includes properly and responsibly disposing of our litter so that animals can’t be hurt.”

As well as everyday rubbish, the RSPCA sees many animals arriving into their care with terrible injuries caused by angling litter such as discarded fishing line and plastic netting.

Waterfowl and seals are often admitted to the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres with nasty wounds caused by fishing hooks, line and netting.

Adam added: “Animals who get their heads or neck stuck in litter can suffer severe injuries as they struggle to break free and even suffocate while other will slowly grow weaker and weaker as they try to hunt or find food or water.

“Others will get fishing line or netting cutting deep into their skin, affecting circulation and with wounds become seriously infected. These hazards can very quickly become a matter of life or death for these animals and action is urgently needed to tackle this problem head-on. It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.

“The majority of anglers do dispose of their litter properly and it is frustrating that those who don’t, possibly don’t realise how dangerous it is to animals. Discarded line in particular is a terrible hazard for wildlife, particularly as it can be almost invisible.

“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind. Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal. We ask that all those who enjoy fishing to follow the Angling Trust Take 5 campaign and make use of the recycling scheme to dispose of their waste tackle.

“If members of the public see discarded litter, we would encourage them to pick it up safely and put it in the bin, remembering to wash their hands after. Their action could save an animal’s life.”

If you’re concerned about the welfare of an animal please contact the RSPCA’s emergency hotline on 0300 1234 999.