The RSPCA animal welfare charity has received an “alarming” number of reports about animals being targeted by air weapons and rifles over the past 18 months.
Since the beginning of 2020, 371 incidents have been reported, where the caller believed an air gun or rifle had been used to target an animal - including 17 in Nottinghamshire.
The county now ranks fourth for these type of reports across England and Wales.
Steve Bennett, the charity’s deputy chief officer of the inspectorate, said: "Since the beginning of 2020, we've received 371 alarming reports to our emergency line where the caller had reason to believe an animal had been targeted by an air weapon or rifle."
"The last 18 months have been tough for everyone, and it really beggars belief that - while communities rallied around one another in the face of Covid-19 - anyone thought it acceptable to spend their time taking pot shots at innocent animals
“Pets are often the victim - especially cats; while wildlife are also targets of these callous acts. Animals can suffer terribly from the pain and injuries caused by air weapons, and sadly many lose their life.”
The RSPCA gets around 84,000 calls to its cruelty line every month and around 1,500 of those are about intentional cruelty. But the charity sees a rise in the summer by around 400 calls, on average, per month, about 47 calls every day or two every hour.