Men fined over animal welfare breaches by DWP
A record 3,200 animals died in animal welfare breaches at the DWP's Animal Care and Use (ACU) unit last year â€“ an increase on the 1,500 animals recorded the previous year â€“ according to figures obtained by BBC Rural.
DWP data shows some 4,000 animals died between April and November last year â€“ up 27% on the 6,000 animals registered in the same period last year, and more than double the number recorded in the year before.
At the highest levels of cruelty recorded, a total of 477 animals were killed within one hour of each other, up from 393 in 2010.
The vast majority â€“ 80% â€“ of the deaths took place in the week leading up to Christmas, when animals are often in desperate need of adoption.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The death toll continues to rise from last year, with more than 3,000 animals dying before Christmas
The ACU was set up as part of the Â£6bn spending review of the health service.
In March, the charity Campaign Against Cruel Sports (CAS) said it had documented how staff were not taking care of animals.
"The average size of a 'care parcel' at the ACU in November 2013 was a 3-person cattery in a four-bedroom house, with five animals," said CAM president Simon Corrie.
"There were only eight animals in the care parcels this December.
"The poor condition of animals inside the cattery, for example, showed that there was no care taken to ensure that animals were safe and in place when staff came and went."
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The ACU was set up to provide basic, low-cost housing for animals, but the number of animals taken to its facilities was spiralling
CAS claims the number of animals being treated at the ACU rose from 785 to 1,023 in November, while a further 1,039 animals were sent there over Christmas period.
The ACU has had to take more money away from the wider animal services budget in order to carry out these increases, according to CAM.
However, the number of animals transferred, and how many died, have remained stable over the past year, with 1,074 animals dying in November 2013 - up 9% from 1,095 in November 2012.
Most of the deaths that happened within this year happened within three days of each other, said Dr John Blyth, clinical manager of the ACU.
It is not clear how much money was spent on animals that died before Christmas, with figures from Animal Focus suggesting only Â£26m of funding went towards caring fo
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