A west Dorset resident has told of her upset at seeing youths firing catapults at pigeons near a play park.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has spoken of her disgust after witnessing the cruel act just off Plottingham Playing Fields in Bridport.

She said: “I was on a walk when all of a sudden, this light kept flashing by the trees by the skate park so I stood and watched - every time the light went up, you could hear a thwack.

"I saw four youths in dark clothing, but I couldn’t see who they were, they had a catapult and it seemed like they were out hunting so I shouted, ‘I can see you, stop it’ and they just stopped and walked off.”

It is illegal to shoot animals for fun or for target practice.

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: “We would like to remind people that all wild birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

“It is illegal to intentionally injure or kill any wild bird or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. Only specially licenced persons are permitted to destroy nests.

“If anyone has any information regarding any birds being illegally injured or destroyed, then please report it to us on our website www.dorset.police.uk or by calling 101.”

The resident, who is a big animal lover, said she couldn't understand why youths were trying to harm birds.

She said: “People don’t really eat pigeons anymore. Why would they be going out and shooting birds for no reason? And if they were hunting, maybe they could choose a different sport.

“Anything could have happened, there were still people around at that time. It’s not the sort of thing that you want to see at a kids' play park.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “Shocking catapult attacks against animals are very distressing and unspeakably cruel. It is totally unacceptable - and also illegal - to shoot animals for ‘fun’ or as target practice.

“At the RSPCA we are working proactively with police and other agencies to tackle this issue and stamp out this cruel practice, which unfortunately we are seeing as a growing trend in some areas. 

“We think of ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, and we know most people will be shocked to think wildlife could be targeted in this way.

"But, sadly, the RSPCA’s experience shows that there are also people out there who are deliberately targeting wildlife, pets and farm animals with not just catapults - but guns and even crossbows. These weapons cause horrific pain and suffering.

“All wild birds, including pigeons, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take them except under licence. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

“To report cruelty to an animal, and help us protect wildlife, please visit the RSPCA’s website.”