Severed paws, crushed snouts and pierced stomachs – these are just some of the horrific injuries caused to animals by an assortment of vicious traps and snares that have been highlighted by an animal welfare charity.

A series of photographs released by the RSPCA in what they are calling a “Calendar of Cruelty” graphically illustrate the appalling agony suffered by creatures caught in such traps.

The RSPCA chose a monthly incident from either 2006 or 2007 to provide a snapshot of the sort of suffering animals endure as a result of the cruel devices. The organisation is keen to make people aware of the ongoing problem, even if many of the images – including some from the West – do not make comfortable viewing.

One especially harrowing photograph shows a fox after it had become hopelessly ensnared in an illegal trap that gouged out both of its eyes.

The fox was still alive when it was found, despite the trap crushing his skull and forcing metal teeth into its eye sockets.

RSPCA South West spokeswoman Jo Barr said: “I think it’s one of the most disturbing images the RSPCA has ever released.

“It is impossible to imagine the pain this creature must have endured.”

Explaining the initiative, she went on: “It is at this time of year that many people are opening up their animal calendars for 2008 and looking at lovely images for the coming year.

“But these happy glossy calendars are worlds away from the horrific pictures which face our inspectors and animal collection officer on a monthly basis when they are called out to deal with animals caught in traps and snares.”

Gin traps are mechanical traps designed to catch an animal by its leg, using spring-operated jaws with teeth or a serrated edge. Their use has been illegal in the UK since 1958, but some are still being set to catch animals such as rabbits and foxes.

Ms Barr explained: “The sale or possession of such traps is not illegal, but the RSPCA wants to make people aware that they can face prosecution by setting a gin trap.”

Anyone found guilty faces a maximum pounds20,000 fine and/or six months in prison.

One cat was put down to prevent further suffering after spending five agonising days with a gin trap stuck to its mouth in Cornwall.

Cat suffered horrific injuries

RSPCA collections officer Felicity Cross said: “It was horrific to find this cat in such a shocking state.

“He must have been in agony for a long time. He was impaled on the teeth of the trap and his front leg had been crushed.”

Also in Cornwall, a badger had to be put down after being caught in a snare on private land, which the landowner said had been set to catch foxes.

The mechanism had cut right through the badger’s chest muscle, exposing the cavity.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Neil Thomas said: “The badger was obviously in distress. The snare was wrapped around the fence and we had to use wire cutters to cut it free.”

Another badger succumbed after days of desperately struggling to free itself from a snare hooked to farm fencing.

In Wales, two cats were caught in gin traps in one day in June 2006; one of which had to be destroyed to stop its misery.

RSPCA inspector Richard Abbott said: “The cat’s front leg had been crushed, broken and twisted by the lethal mechanism.”

Fellow inspector Nigel Duguid said: “To have two incidents of animals suffering in gin traps within one morning is upsetting and totally unacceptable.

“People must not set these traps, allowing them to indiscriminately maim and kill animals.”

A wood pigeon was also put down after it was found fluttering with a gin trap attached to its leg.

RSPCA inspector Liz Wheeler said: “The pain and suffering that creature must have endured from the jaws of the trap and the weight of the device does not bear thinking about.”

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