A YOUNG cat had two of her toes ripped off after she became snared in an illegal trap near an RSPCA centre in Cornwall.
A member of the public found the terrified and badly injured animal on land close to the Venton Animal Centre at Higher Quoit, St Columb, near Newquay, on Boxing Day.
The female tortoiseshell cat, named Belle by RSPCA staff, was caught in a gin trap, a mechanical trap designed to catch an animal by its leg. When the animal steps into the trap, spring-operated jaws with teeth or a serrated edge snap shut.
Anyone found guilty of setting a gin trap which causes unnecessary suffering to an animal faces a maximum £20,000 fine and/or six months in prison.
The use of gin traps has been illegal in the UK since 1958, but some are still being used to catch rabbits and foxes.
Animal collection officer Felicity Cross went to free the cat, believed to be around a year old.
But by the time Ms Cross reached the trap, the frightened cat had wrenched her paw free, leaving two of her toes still caught in the jaws of the device.
The cat had not got very far and Ms Cross quickly found her and rushed her to a local vet.
RSPCA officers are now trying to find whoever set the trap and the cat’s owners.
Ms Cross said: “Not only are gin traps illegal but they are indiscriminate and this one was set by a hedge on land which is popular with dog-walkers and families with young children.
“The poor cat must have been terrified and in a huge amount of pain to wrench herself free, and we still don’t know if she may lose more of her leg.
“I would urge anyone who knows who is responsible for setting this barbaric trap to contact the RSPCA.”
Domestic animals often fall foul of the traps, but it is illegal to cause any animal to suffer by using them.
The RSPCA estimates there are around two or three such cases every year in Devon and Cornwall.
The sale or possession of gin traps is not illegal and sometimes pubs or restaurants use them for decoration.
Ms Cross said: “She is a lovely friendly cat. She was found in quite a remote spot and no-one locally recognises her so we cannot rule out that she was abandoned.”
Anyone with information should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.