THE scourge of airgun attacks on animals in which many domestic pets and wild birds are being maimed or killed is causing grave concern to the RSPCA.

Now, the society has launched a regional campaign to raise awareness of the dangers airguns pose and halt their widespread abuse of animals.

The most common targets are cats, wild birds and water birds although wild mammals and dogs are also regularly killed or injured by airguns.

Late last year, the Bury Times featured the plight of Pip the cat who was shot in the head with a hunting pellet.

The discovery was only made when the four-year-old cat's owner, Amanda Racktoo, of Southbank Road, Bury, took Pip to a mobile RSPCA clinic at Bradley Fold. Thankfully, Pip made a full recovery.

The animal charity says that in 2007, the northern region received; l A total of 197 calls regarding airgun incidents l 76 calls regarding injured cats l 55 calls about wild birds that had been shot l 22 calls about injured water birds l 21 calls about injured dogs l 16 calls concerning shot wild mammals l At least five calls a month during the year regarding an injured animal l 30 calls in May alone, making it the worst month for attacks overall.

Regional superintendent David Millard said: "Mindless airgun attacks on pets and wildlife is a serious and worsening problem.

"Our figures only provide a snapshot of this issue as many more animals are suffering needless pain and death that we are unaware of.

"We are now appealing to the public to help prevent unnecessary suffering to countless animals by reporting any witnessed incidents to us or the police.

"We can then do everything in our power to prosecute the individuals responsible which may, in turn, deter any others."

He went on: "Also, we would like to remind people that the law has changed, and it is now illegal for anyone under 18-years-old to have an airgun in their possession without supervision.

"We're appealing to parents not to buy their child an airgun unless they are prepared and willing to supervise them at all times."