A call every two hours about animals injured by litter

03.03.18

New figures have shown that we answer a call about an animal that has been harmed by rubbish every two hours.

Hedgehog trapped in litter © RSPCA

From a hedgehog with a deep neck wound from an old elastic band, a swan with an old fishing hook stuck in its throat and a seal close to death from a neck injury caused by a plastic frisbee.

We answered 5,081 calls about animals affected by litter in 2017.

Our latest annual figures showed that seven out of 10 calls were about animals affected by angling litter including old hooks, lures, netting and other fishing paraphernalia, and the rest were about general litter such as plastic products and tin cans.

Safely bin any litter

Our head of wildlife, Adam Grogan, said: 

It’s shocking how many litter-related incidents we see, particularly as these kinds of animal injuries and deaths are entirely avoidable.

It's good that there’s a global spotlight on how we use and dispose of plastic and other litter so that people understand how their rubbish is affecting animals and the environment. Every month our officers, wildlife centres and hospitals deal with hundreds of cases where pets or wildlife have become caught up in – and even died – from carelessly discarded items.

Only last week, the RSPCA was called out to a duck, which sadly had to be put to sleep after being found with severe injuries from a ring of plastic – probably from an oil can – stuck round her neck and beak.

An animal’s life could be saved if members of the public picked up and safely binned any litter they saw.

Great British Spring Clean

Seal with head stuck in a frisbee © RSPCA

Our new figures on litter are released as Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean gets underway (2 - 4 March 2018).

The annual event is designed to bring people across the country together to clear up the litter in our towns, villages, countryside and beaches.

Most cases of litter affecting animals are preventable if rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly.

Animals looking for food can get trapped in tin cans and the sharp edges can cause injury. We encourage people to clean and empty food containers before pinching them shut or cutting them in half before putting them in the recycling.

Elastic bands also pose a big risk to small animals and birds as they can wrap around their bodies or beaks and cause choking and other injuries. We encourage people to reuse them where possible or cut them open before throwing them away.

Broken glass can cause serious injury and small animals can get trapped in jars and bottles so please clean and recycle glass as much as possible.

Plastic bags can suffocate animals or, if they eat them, can cause them to choke or can block their digestive system. Please tie bags in knots before recycling. And plastic can holders can cause deep wounds to animals that get tangled in them or can even choke them so it’s best to cut the loops before discarding.

Old fishing gear is a major problem

An xray of fishing hooks in a bird © RSPCA

We also deal regularly with terrible injuries and death to mammals and birds from used angling gear

Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal.

Injuries caused by discarded fishing hooks stop animals eating and can lead to infection and old fishing line may cause strangulation or deep wounds where the line has cut into their body. These are problems we frequently see.  

For more advice on how you can help, visit our Litter Costs Lives webpage.

If you see an animal in distress, please callour 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999.

We can't do it without you

We can only continue to rescue and care for animals with your help. If you would like to support our vital work donate what you can online.

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