RSPCA inspectors have launched a manhunt after two pet cats were trapped in home-made snares.

The animal welfare charity, which has a shelter in Altham, said the type of traps used in Wheatley Lane, Fence, nr Nelson, were “cruel and indiscriminate” killers.

The manhunt was launched after ginger Tom cat, Snugs, had a lucky escape after turning up at his home in Fence with a snare trailing from his neck. A second cat was also caught.

His owner Hilda Cherry said: “He came back with a wire lead trailing from his neck which we managed to get it off by ourselves.

“He was very lucky because he hadn’t been cut but the RSPCA said there had been other incidents which have been much worse.

“Snares are a inhumane way to deal with pest control, I think people should look at other ways of dealing with the problem to prevent any more incidents.”

Inspector Dave Anforth said the latest victims were not seriously injured but he is keen to trace the person responsible for laying the snares.

He said: “The animals miraculously escaped serious injury after getting trapped in homemade snares.

“Although it is not illegal to set some types of snare, the RSPCA is opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all varieties, as they are one of the most cruel and indiscriminate killers of wild and domestic animals.”

Inspector Anforth said he was investigating reports the two cats were not the only victims.

He said: “Snares have been traditionally used as a method of pest control, but in reality they inflict suffering at random on a wide variety of animals. Snares cannot discriminate between species, and any animal that moves through the noose is a potential victim.

“It is only by luck that the two cats caught in Wheatley Lane were not seriously injured.

The charity said a snared animal is usually caught by the neck, but it may also be trapped by a leg or round the body.

Inspector Anforth went on: “Once caught, the animal panics and struggles to free itself. The more it struggles, the tighter the noose becomes. The tighter the noose, the greater the animal’s pain and suffering. The RSPCA urges people to seek more humane alternatives to setting snares.”

There are laws governing the use of snares and it is illegal to set snares for birds, deer or badgers.

In 1981, the Wildlife and Countryside Act made it compulsory for users of all forms of snare to take “all reasonable precautions” to prevent injury to protected animals.

It is also a legal requirement that snares should be checked at least once a day.

Anyone with information about the snares in the Wheatley Lane area can contact inspector Anforth on the 24-hour number 08705 555 999. Calls are charged at the national rate and are treated in strictest confidence.