Thursday, 30 July 2009
RSPCA officers ordered a pensioner to dig up his dead dog after claims he had not being caring for it.
Dennis Gordon Rogers buried the animal in the garden of his home in Sunderland after it died, city magistrates heard.
But RSPCA officers ordered the 73-year-old to dig up the dog so they could investigate a complaint by neighbours.
Prosecuting for the animal charity, Judith Curry said a vet examined the tan bull mastiff, which had been dead for about two days.
They found it was very underweight and had pieces of wood in its stomach – one measuring 2x2.5cm.
Mrs Curry said a normal weight for the breed would be 45-55kg, but it weighed just 28kg and its ribs and backbones were sticking out.
Rogers admitted one charge of causing unnecessary suffering by not taking the sick dog to a vet.
He told RSPCA officials it was a "walking skeleton" when he got it from a man in Hendon. Rogers had the dog for about four months and said he fed it the same as his other dog, also a bull mastiff, but it failed to put on weight. Mitigating, Tony Southwick said Rogers had been a loving dog owner for 13 years and gone to the pet stall in Jacky White's Market for advice, but did not contact a vet. Magistrates fined the pensioner £165, with a £15 victim surcharge and £125 to be paid towards RSPCA investigation fees.
He was banned from keeping animals for two years, other than his racing pigeons. Rogers, Told the court his surviving dog Tara would be re-homed with his son
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
The plight of a ewe stranded 100ft up a cliff for a month came to a heartbreaking end in the sights of a rifle.
In shocking scenes, the helpless animal was shot dead after animal charity the RSPCA advised a rescue would be too dangerous.
The decision outraged animal lovers who fondly named the sheep Aretha after Rescue Me soul singer Aretha Franklin.
They said she had been living happily on the ledge and could have been left to roam her tiny patch.
Cruise ship worker Juanita Degenaar, who first spotted the ewe's plight, said: "I am shocked and appalled. She was happy eating and drinking away.
"They should have just left her alone, she was perfectly happy, like the queen of her kingdom."
Animal rescue charity ARC added: "I would have thought the animal would only weigh as much as a small person. They lift people off crevices so why not the sheep?"
The RSPCA feared tranquillizing the sheep with a dart would scare it, causing it to bolt and fall to its death. It was thought this would endanger the team trying to pluck her from the cliff.
Inspectors said the final decision to shoot Aretha was made by the owner and an independent marksman carried out the job.
Justin Le Masurier said: "The RSPCA regularly rescues animals trapped on cliffs but unfortunately, as in this case, there isn't always a happy ending.
"The sheep was humanely destroyed. The procedure was carried out quickly and cleanly and the sheep would not have suffered.
"This is a very sad situation and we understand public concern. We wish to assure people this difficult decision was taken in the very best interests of the animal."
The dead sheep plunged into the water and was collected by workers in waders. It was brought ashore at Whitby Harbour, North Yorks, and returned to the farmer on Monday.
It is thought Aretha had stumbled off the edge of the cliff where she was grazing with other sheep and survived by landing on the ledge.
Animal centre worker Juanita Wilson, 62, hit out: "I'm appalled they killed her. I've no faith in the RSPCA - they let the animal down.
"A mountain rescue team could have harnessed the sheep, they only had to ask the right person. That sheep was shot because it was easier than trying to get it down."
And angry Mirror reader, Charles Attard, 54, a maintenance engineer from Poole, Dorset, said: "I would have paid to save the sheep and have her winched to safety."
Monday, 20 July 2009
A system involving social workers, police and courts took a child away from loving parents for no apparent reason, writes Christopher Booker.
The case involved the arrest of two parents and the abduction of their child by social workers, in a story so bizarre that, at last week's Prime Minister's Questions, Gordon Brown was asked about it by the family's MP, Charles Hendry, who has long been concerned with the case because the mother is a vice-chairman of his local Conservative Association. The family's horrified GP says that, in 43 years of medical practice, he has never "encountered a case of such appalling injustice".
I first planned to describe this case in April, but was pre-empted by the draconian reporting restrictions on family cases, which, for reasons which will become tragically clear, have now been partly lifted.
The story began in April 2007 when "Mr Smith", as I must call him, had a visit from the RSPCA over the dog-breeding business he ran from the family home. He had docked the tails of five new-born puppies – a procedure that had become illegal two days beforehand. Unaware of this, he promised in future to obey the new law.
Three days later, however, at nine o'clock in the morning, two RSPCA officials returned, accompanied in cars and riot vans by 18 policemen, who had apparently been tipped off, quite wrongly, that Mr Smith had guns in the house.
Armed with pepper spray, they ransacked the house, looking for the nonexistent guns. The dogs, released from their kennels, also rampaged through the house. When Mr Smith and his wife, who was three months pregnant, volubly protested at what was happening, they were forcibly arrested in front of their screaming five-year-old daughter "Jenny" and taken away. Two hours later, with the house in a shambles – the dogs having strewn the rabbit entrails meant for their dinner across the floor – social workers arrived to remove the crying child.
Held for hours in a police cell, Mrs Smith had a miscarriage. When she was finally set free, she returned home that evening to find her daughter gone. It was the beginning of a barely comprehensible nightmare.
Her husband was charged with various offences connected with the dogs, including the tail-docking, but was eventually given a conditional discharge by a judge who accepted that he was "an animal lover" who had not been cruel to his dogs.
Far more serious, however, was that the social workers seemed determined to hang onto the child, now in foster care, on the sole grounds that they had found the house dirty and in a mess (the "animal entrails" played a large part in their evidence). This was despite the testimony of a woman Pc (who had visited the house a month earlier on a different matter) that she found it "clean and tidy". Two hundred horrified neighbours, who knew the couple as doting parents of a happy, well-cared-for child, were about to stage a protest demonstration when they were stopped by the police, on the social workers' instructions that this might identify the child.
For more than two years the couple have been fighting through more than 100 hearings in the courts to win their daughter back. From a mass of evidence, including psychiatric reports and tape recordings made at meetings with her parents (only allowed in the presence of social workers), it is clear she has been desperate to return home. It is equally clear that considerable pressure has been brought on the child to turn her against her parents,
One particularly bizarre psychiatric report was compiled after only an hour-long interview with the little girl. When she said she had once choked on a lollipop, this was interpreted as signifying that she could possibly have "been forced to have oral sex with her father".
After Mrs Smith alone had been subjected to four different psychiatric investigations, which came up with mixed findings, she refused to submit to a fifth, and this apparently weighed heavily with the judge who last December ordered that "Jenny" should be put out to adoption.
In the Appeal Court 11 days ago, Mr Justice Bodey ruled that, because the mother had refused that fifth test, indicating that the parents put their own "emotional wellbeing" in front of that of their child, the adoption order must stand. When this judgment was reported, an independent social worker, who had earlier been an expert witness in the case, wrote to Mr and Mrs Smith to say he was "horrified" to learn that Jenny was "not back in their care", having assumed for over a year that "she must have been returned home".
Their equally horrified GP, saying that he had never "encountered such a case of appalling injustice", wrote "the destruction of this once happy family is in my opinion evil". So shocked was their MP, Mr Hendry ,that he last Wednesday took the highly unusual course of raising the case with the Prime Minister at question time. Numerous others who know the family well have expressed similar dismay. One neighbour, herself a former social worker, whose own daughter often played with "Jenny", said: "I worked with children in social services for 25 years and I have never seen anything like this. It is disgusting."
What is clear in this case, as in so many others, is that a system involving social workers, police and courts in what is an obviously very close alliance should yet again have left a happy, loving family destroyed for no very obvious reason, Almost equally alarming is the way that system manages to shield itself from the world, through reporting restrictions which it claims are designed to protect the children but which too often end up by protecting only the system itself.
Saturday, 18 July 2009
The RSPCA centre on Abbey Street has said it is struggling to meet its £5,500-a-week running costs.
Managers have confirmed they will now only take cats and small animals.
Four people will lose their jobs and dogs currently at the shelter will be taken to nearby centres until they can be found new homes.
Centre manager, Malcolm Hall, said they had been running at their 27 dog capacity all year but could not carry on.
"It has been a big decision but at the moment, with the way things are, we just do not have the funding to be able to care for the dogs as we should.
"But the worry is that without the dogs, fewer people will come in to look around and we still need donations to look after all the other animals."
All staff at the shelter have also been asked to reapply for their jobs.
Had a friend phone me last week. She tells me that someone needed a mother cat and kittens collecting, so I tels her to give the person my number and tell them to ring after 9pm when I'd done all my chores.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
As I arrived at the office this morning, I took a call from Ernie, a reader from Congleton in cheshire.
He's had a spot of bother with the RSPCA, or more particularly with an individual Inspector.Basically, Ernie cleans windows for a living. There's one group of 4 bungalows where he does the windows of some OAPs. The residents were bemoaning the fact that there are huge numbers of magpies around the area, and they hardly see songbirds any more.
So Ernie stepped up and offered them his services. He had a Larsen trap in his garage, and he offered to set it up and reduce the local magpie population. In fact he was quite successful, even using just roadkill and eggs as bait, and no call bird. He had no wish to kill the magpies, and was driving them some way away and releasing them in woodland. Not that the RSPCA would have known that.Anyhow, a few days ago his trap disappeared. Eventually he discovered that a certain RSPCA Inspector had 'confiscated' it. That is, he went onto private land and removed someone's private property, which so far as I can tell was being used entirely lawfully (within the terms of the General Licence).
In my book that sounds more like theft.So once Ernie got it touch, the RSPCA apologised profusely for overstepping the mark and returned the 'confiscated' trap? Did they heck!The Inspector has bombarded Ernie with police-speak, causing him considerable stress and worry. Ernie is now confused about his legal position, and worries that all this may affect his ability to renew his Shotgun Certificate when it next comes up (he's a keen clay shooter).
To cap it all, our charming 'Inspector' called Ernie last night and said he was 'finalising the paperwork'. He said he was recommending that Ernie should 'just get a caution', and asked if he would agree to the destruction of the trap. Ernie felt so bullied by this stage that he mumbled 'I suppose so'.This sort of bullying by the RSPCA has to stop. Give someone a uniform, a shiny badge and a paramilitary title, and the temptation is to start throwing their weight about. It's human nature, and history provides many examples of just how wrong things can get. There needs to be a system of checks and balances. Who inspects and regulates these people?I've sent the following email to the RSPCA's press office, and await their response:
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
NO action will be taken against Suffolk police after a young dog went without food or water for six days while in its care, it has emerged.The Suffolk force was investigated by the RSPCA after “an administrative” error meant a stray border collie cross was caged behind its station in Bury St Edmunds without food or water for nearly a week. The RSPCA said it did not have proof the dog had suffered adding that, after discussions between its chief inspector and Simon Ash, Suffolk's chief constable, it was reassured procedures had been tightened.But the RSPCA's decision not to take further action has been condemned by other animal charities who claimed it was a case of one rule for the police and one rule for everybody else.
Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, said: “I am not amazed but I am disappointed that the RSPCA decided not to prosecute the police.“I don't think its good enough. All sorts of people end up in court saying it wasn't deliberate and that it won't happen again.“Under the Animal Act, the police had a duty of care for this animal. It fell short of that duty.”A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said the fact it was the police under investigation was immaterial to its decision against prosecution.
She said: “When we heard about the incident it was three or four days after it happened, and by that point we could not prove that suffering occurred.”The RSPCA was, she said, reassured by the force that procedures had been bolstered, meaning such a situation was unlikely to arise in the future.“It was a full investigation. We investigated it in the way we would any other complaint,” she added.
Suffolk police held up its hands to the error and said an investigation had been carried out internally with a view to tightening its procedures.
A police spokesman said: “This was a genuine human error which officers and staff were left distressed by, we have taken action to strengthen our procedures to avoid a repeat of this type of incident, and no disciplinary action will be taken.”
A VET has escaped with a caution after the death of one of his labradors, which was left in a car for six hours on a hot day.
The incident has led to claims of a cover-up by the RSPCA, which pursues other dog owners who leave their pets trapped in sweltering conditions, and the vets’ governing body, which failed to take disciplinary action.
Both organisations have been accused of being too lenient – one even said the case was a “tragic accident” – to protect the career of Alex Gough, 37, from Clutton in Somerset.
It comes at the end of a week in which at least 10 dogs died after they were left in vehicles during a heatwave. In Nottinghamshire two police dogs were killed after their handler left them in a car as temperatures reached 28C outside.
Gough’s two labradors, Heidi and Rory, had to be given emergency treatment after they were rescued from the vet’s car in May 2007. Rory, a nine-month-old male, could not be saved.
At the time Damien Bush, Gough’s business partner and fellow vet, urged his colleague to report the incident to the RSPCA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), which can discipline members for acts of misconduct.
Bush was surprised by the approach taken by both bodies. “An RSPCA official said to me, ‘If he comes to us and expresses remorse, then he may get off with a caution. To be honest, we don’t want to be seen to be going after vets because we rely on vets for goodwill’,” he said. “[Gough] then reported it to the RSPCA, which conducted a very discreet investigation. He was cautioned and it was all forgotten about,” added Bush, who fell out with Gough over the case. Gough has since moved to another practice.
The RCVS took no action against Gough because it decided that he had done nothing wrong.
Following Bush’s inquiry about the case, an official at the college wrote: “The weather was overcast, the car windows were left open and a bowl of water left for the dogs; a check was made during the morning.
“In general terms it would seem [Gough] cared for his animals appropriately and this incident should be seen as a tragic accident rather than anything else.”
In April the RCVS told a solicitor acting for Bush that “there has been no cover-up”.
“At no stage has it been asserted that Mr Gough intended to cause his animals to suffer, and to that extent what happened was an accident, nor has it been suggested that Mr Gough was generally anything other than caring towards animals,” wrote Jane Hern, the RCVS registrar.
The RSPCA has consistently urged owners never to leave dogs in their vehicles. They say that opening a window or providing a bowl of water inside a car is not sufficient to stop animals overheating. Those who are prosecuted and found guilty of allowing their dogs to suffer face a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a £20,000 fine.
The RSPCA insisted it showed “neither fear nor favour” in dealing with such cases. A spokesman said the Gough case was “treated like any other case”. He said punishments could vary from a caution to a full prosecution, but if someone admitted guilt and showed remorse it might lead to leniency.
The RCVS declined to comment because Gough’s case was now closed. Gough also refused to comment.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
The German shepherds were found in the car at Notts Police's HQ in Arnold yesterday.
The Post understands the police dog handler was off duty but had called into the headquarters at Sherwood Lodge, Arnold.
It is unclear how long the dogs had been left in the car on what was the hottest day in Notts for three years – with temperatures rising to 29.3 degrees celsius.
The RSPCA has launched an investigation into the incident.
A spokeswoman from the charity said: "We are investigating two dogs which have died in a hot car.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, anyone found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal can face up to six months in prison or a fine of up to £20,000.
A Notts police spokesman said: "Nottinghamshire Police reported the death of two German shepherd police dogs to the RSPCA on Tuesday, June 30, after they were discovered at force headquarters at 2.15pm.
The spokesperson said the force could not confirm any further details about the incident, but said no one had been suspended.
Notts Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies said: ''This is a tragic incident and we value the important work our police dogs carry out on a daily basis. That is why we swiftly reported this incident to the RSPCA and we will be working with them very closely."
"The RSPCA has been informed and will, I am sure, carry out a thorough and speedy investigation.