AN ANIMAL welfare group has called for tougher laws on owning air rifles in an effort to crack down on unnecessary suffering and deaths.

Wendy Hermon from Swan Support has launched a petition to make it compulsory to own an air rifle licence after witnessing the 'barbaric and torturous' treatment of birds in her job.

The charity is responsible for rescuing and rehoming injured or endangered swans across Thames Valley, but relaxed gun laws have put the species under threat.

Wendy said: "We would like air rifle ownership to become a licensed requirement, resulting in a more severe penalty for misuse or use without a valid licence.

"Swans mate for life, so when one is lost to this barbaric and torturous tactic the mate and offspring do not thrive.

"Swans are an important species in naturally balancing our eco-system by playing a vital role in keeping our wild areas viable and enriched.

"I believe the problem is getting worse. We have had two cases of swans being shot in the last month alone. "

Reading Chronicle:

It is an offence to carry an air weapon in a public place without reasonable excuse and to intentionally or recklessly kill certain types of wild animals and birds.

A man from Windsor filmed himself shooting at swans with an airgun and was given a suspended sentence after sharing the video on social media in 2014.

More recently, a swan survived being shot in the head on the bank of the Thames after it was found by animal rescue teams.

The petition, which has already gathered more than 800 signatures in less than a week, will have to be heared by the government if it reaches 10,000.

"I have been doing this for 25 years. It is just getting worse and worse. This is the worst year we have ever had," Wendy added.

"The RSPCA agreed to share the campaign, but the police do not have enough power to deal with this problem.

"As long as people carry the firearm in a case, there is nothing they can do about it."

Visit: to sign the petition.