ANIMAL abuse is still being carried out in much the same guise as it was in the first half of the 19th century, according to USPCA bosses
This year sees the 175th anniversary of the charity which has been dedicated since its inception to the prevention of cruelty to animals and relief of suffering.
USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott said the earliest minutes of the charity list equine cruelty, dog fighting and hunting with dogs as abuses to be addressed.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said.
“The reason the USPCA was first founded was because of horse cruelty on the streets of Belfast.
“Working horses were beaten onto their knees 175 years ago.
“Today we are still told about horse cruelty on a weekly basis.”
He said 175 years on and “hunting with dogs” remains legal in Northern Ireland.
“We are the only part of the UK in which this form of animal suffering is tolerated. Puppy farms prosper and wildlife crime is widespread.”
David Wilson, press officer with the USPCA, added: “Cruelty never really goes away.
“But the means of inflicting cruelty changes.
“In the past the cruelty was on the streets but now a lot of it is behind closed doors, in back yards and in the countryside.
“Social networking sites are widely used to arrange cruelty. That is alarming.”
Mr Wilson said after coverage of dogfighting throughout the Province five years ago “we believe dogfighting rings have been abandoned”.
“We have no evidence of dogfighting rings, but we do have evidence of criminal gangs using fighting dogs for badger baiting and other activities.”
Mr Philpott added it was a “sad reflection on the times in which we live that animals continue to be beaten and abused with social networks being widely used to show and celebrate their suffering”.
“In 1837 an Act of Parliament was passed affording animals in Ireland protection from cruelty and improper treatment,” he said.
“Enforcement was a priority and within months cases were before the courts and serious abusers imprisoned.
“One-hundred-and-seventy-five years on and we have the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011 on the statute book.
“This hard-won act is intended to protect our companion animals, dogs, cats, equines etc and is enforced by Animal Welfare Wardens employed by our local authorities.”
Mr Philpott said the founder of the USPCA – formerly called the Belfast SPCA – was Commander Francis A Calder.
Commander Calder’s naval career was cut short aged 32 when the Napoleonic Wars came to an end.
After settling in Belfast, he went on to fight for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Mr Philpott said his deepest sympathies lay with horses used heavily during Belfast’s industrial revolution.
“Stories of cockfighting and bear-baiting added to Calder’s moral sense of anguish and in 1836, along with a number of highly respected citizens and clergy, he founded what is now the USPCA.” The Belfast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals went on to make history in its unprecedented struggle for animal rights.
The Calder Fountain, located in Belfast’s Custom House Square, was dedicated to the life and memory of Commander Calder.