POVERTY and a lack of education have been blamed for West Yorkshire recording the worst animal cruelty statistics in the country.
A total of 126 people in the county were convicted of animal welfare offences last year, the highest figure in England and Wales.
The number of RSPCA investigations in West Yorkshire rose from 7,570 in 2012 to 8,108 last year.
Nationally there were 153,770 complaints of cruelty investigated by the charity while the number of convictions dropped from 4,168 to 3,961.
Of those convictions, 585 involved horses, donkeys and ponies, a rise of 154 per cent on the 2011 figure.
The RSPCA blamed irresponsible horse owners who allow their animals to breed “indiscriminately”.
The charity’s David Bowles said the rise in feed prices and “horses going to just a few pounds” has led to animals going without food and vet treatment.
The RSPCA’s regional manager Mike Hogg said it was impossible to say why convictions were high in the North.
“The figures are usually the highest in the North, and of course it’s impossible to say for certain why that is.
“We have a large number of big cities in the region where greater numbers of people typically live. There also tend to be greater levels of poverty and education in these places.
“Another factor could be that people living in the North are more likely to call the RSPCA if they see something they don’t think is right.”
The figures show that dogs were still the animal most likely to be involved in cruelty cases, with 2,505 convictions, which was slightly down on 2012.
After West Yorkshire, the worst counties for cruelty and neglect convictions were Durham (100), West Midlands (90), Greater London (83), East Riding of Yorkshire (74), Kent (65), North Yorkshire (64) and Greater Manchester (63).