The charity investigated more than 16,000 reports of animal cruelty or neglect across the region in 2017. West Yorkshire had England’s third-highest number of complaints, while South Yorkshire came seventh highest.
And more complaints were made about cruelty to horses in West Yorkshire than anywhere else in the country last year, the figures show. The charity received 925 separate complaints about horse welfare in West Yorkshire alone, seizing 40 horses.
Chief inspector Heidi Jenner, who oversees its team in Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford and Harrogate, said it was unclear why West Yorkshire was proving a particular hotspot for horse welfare issues, but factors could include a high number of working horses found in urban areas like Bradford.
She said: “We probably get more calls now because the value of horses is getting less and less but the cost of looking after them isn’t.
“When something goes wrong with horses, because they are not worth much, instead of getting them treated people will just dump them at the side of a road.”
The charity received 2,159 complaints about the welfare of a horse, pony or donkey across Yorkshire last year and seized 144 of the animals.
The RSPCA’s national equine co-ordinator Christine McNeil said a total of 980 horses were rescued across England.
She said: “Last year we took in more horses than we have in any of the past four years, and with our inspectors being called to rescue more and more every week, we are stretched to the limits.
“Up and down the country, horses are being found sick, or dumped liked rubbish, dying or dead. Distressingly, this is common and it’s a huge issue. We are constantly receiving calls to our cruelty line – on average 80 per day about horses alone – as well as messages every day on social media from very concerned and upset people asking for our help.”
A total 16,729 complaints were investigated last year across Yorkshire, resulting in 120 people being prosecuted for 256 offences.
In one North Yorkshire case, the owner of a terrier and his friend were both jailed for four months after attempting to euthanase the animal by hammering a nail into its skull before burying it alive.
The elderly dog, Scamp, which had been suffering from an untreated brain tumour, was discovered in Kirkleatham Woods, Redcar, by walkers.
Its injuries were so severe it had to be put to sleep. RSPCA inspector Nick Jones said the case would “stay with me – and everyone else who worked on this case and who helped Scamp in his final moments – forever”.
Mrs Jenner said these were often the saddest cases, as it meant they “haven’t managed to help the animal” from suffering serious harm.
She said: “We are here to prevent rather than prosecute. Sadly, there are still a lot of cases that are too far gone for us to be able to deal with it in any other way.”
Mrs Jenner said most complaints involved poor care of a dog, cat or horse and often came about because of a lack of veterinary treatment or adequate care for an animal.
But she said organised cruelty, like dog fighting, “still happens”.
She said: “We still get people who go out hunting with dogs, for example. They will go out lamping, where they go after badgers or foxes.”