Monday, 31 December 2012


RSPCA trustees 'broke charity rules' over David Cameron hunt prosecution

Trustees of the RSPCA broke charity rules by sanctioning a £300,000 prosecution of David Cameron’s local hunt, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers including Lord Heseltine, the former Cabinet minister.

David Cameron pays a visit to the Heythrop Hunt

 The politicians have reported the RSPCA to the Charity Commission for breaching a “duty of prudence” that governs their actions.
The group, which includes Simon Hart, the Conservative MP, Kate Hoey, the Labour MP, Mark Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP, and Baroness Mallalieu, told the watchdog that they had “concerns about the motivation for bringing this prosecution”.
They described the £326,000 cost of bringing the private prosecution against members of the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire as “staggering” and urged William Shawcross, the chairman of the Commission, to investigate.
The Prime Minister, whose Witney consitituency covers Heythrop, rode with the hunt before the hunting ban was introduced by Labour in 2005.
Earlier this week, District Judge Tim Pattinson questioned the amount of donors’ money spent on bringing the successful private prosecution.
He suggested that “members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed”. The hunt and its members were fined £6,800 after admitting four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs. The judge drew attention to the fact that the private prosecution cost nearly 10 times more than the defence costs of £35,000.
The MPs and peers quoted his comments and questioned why the RSPCA engaged three barristers and a solicitors’ firm called Fishburns, “a London-based specialist law firm providing legal services to the insurance and reinsurance markets”. The firm was “engaged despite the fact that the RSPCA has its own in-house legal department”, the group said in the letter, which has been seen by The Daily Telegraph.
They added: “We believe that this 'staggering’ expenditure constitutes a clear breach of the 'duty of prudence’ by the trustees of the RSPCA in that it cannot possibly be argued that charitable funds and assets have been used reasonably.”
The “duty of prudence” aims to conserve the property of the trust. It is not a duty set out in the Charities Act 2006 or any other statute, but reflects principles defined through cases dealt within the courts. The group’s concern was that “if the prosecution was justified exactly the same result could have been achieved for a fraction of the cost with prudent management”.
They added: “Instead hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to the RSPCA by members of the public have been squandered unnecessarily on lawyers’ fees. This is all the more relevant given that the evidence obtained by the RSPCA was never even passed to the CPS, which might well have chosen to prosecute in the normal way, had the public interest requirement been met. We ask that you urgently investigate our complaint and ensure that the charity deals with future legal expenditure more prudently.”
The Charity Commission, which regulates the activities of charities, said that any action taken after a breach of charity rules “would depend on the circumstances of the case”.
A spokesman added: “Undertaking prosecutions is in furtherance of the RSPCA’s charitable objects and is made clear to the public on their website.
“It is for trustees to consider the matter of bringing prosecutions in accordance with these duties and any other requirements which might apply, and for them to consider the issue of costs.”
On Friday night the RSPCA said its trustees had done nothing wrong and it was in the public interest for the Heythrop Hunt to be prosecuted. A spokesman added: “We recognise the pressures on the police force, who rightly look to the RSPCA as experts in animal welfare matters.
“We would of course be delighted if the police were in a position to take on investigations of this kind and examine evidence of the complexity and scale of that relating to the Heythrop Hunt case.”
The spokesman said that the Charity Commission’s chief executive, Sam Younger, gave his blessing to the leadership of Gavin Grant, the RSPCA’s chief executive, at a meeting earlier this year.

Sunday, 30 December 2012


I thought that the RSPCA destroying animals it can no longer care for was common knowledge. The Dogs Trust make it pretty clear in their advertisements that 'no health animal is destroyed'. I once went to the Leeds RSPCA to adopt a dog, but was told we lived too far away, so went to the Dogs Trust instead (even further away!) and adopted a Chow Chow and then a year or so later a deaf Old English Sheepdog from the OES rescue centre in Horncastle, Lincolshire. I used to donate via DD to the RSPCA but stopped it years ago as they lost their way in pet care.

I am cancelling my subscription wow just wow these dogs have nobody and now they're killing them? Vile people
I am sure everyone cancelling their contributions will really help avoid this in the future.......
I stopped donating when the RSPCA refused to answer my emails about halal slaughter. All the big charities are corrupt and run like businesses (in my opinion). I did voluntary work for a big charity and once asked for a new blade for a saw I was cutting branches with (£3.50). The bosses who where all driving top of the range BMWs and 4x4s told me there was no budget for saw blades snf I haven't been asked to work since.
I donate sometimes to the PDSA but never to the RSPCA. When we needed help on a Boxing Day for our sick dog, the RSPCA refused to help. The PDSA vet was at the local surgery and saw us within an hour. For that, I thank them. The RSPCA seem quite happy to take people to court but not to offer advice and help where needed.
The RSPCA coffers are overflowing, the Icelandic Banking Crash highlighted this. They don't want t waste their money gathered from old ladies, wills and deluded animal lovers, keeping animals alive. Never ever give to this lot, the execs earn more than the poor man on callout. Something has to be done though about the roaming strays be it cat, dog, fish or fowl.
cast your mind back to a guy in Northumberland had his name splashed all over the papers he was a licensed slaughter man his crime PUTTING GREYHOUNDS DOWN WITH A BOLT GUN HUMMMM INTERESTING THEY SEEM TO HAVE LAW FOR THEMSELVES AND NOT OTHERS . TOTAL WASTE OF SPACE I NEVER GIVE MONEY TO THEM
By destroying animals it gives the RSPCA more money to waste on court cases. I wont be donating in the future.
Known about this for years. I wouldn't give them a a penny, I prefer to support Cats Protection and the Donkey Sanctuary.
Have donated to RSPCA for past 6 years via monthly direct debit genuinely thought all money was going towards preventing healthy dogs and cats from being destroyed, If this story is an accurate account of what is going on then I will have no hesitation in cancellling any further payments, and am sure many more readers are feeling the same.
Wouldn't give them a penny! The dogs trust is far more worthy of my donation.
The RSPCA will no longer get my donation!!
so I help pay towards killing healthy animals? disgusted, I will find another animal charity to donate to
They've got a better record than PETA who kill over 85% of the animals they "rescue". I no longer give to the RSPCA since the blessed Tony Bleedin' Blair politicised them and gave them draconian "powers" which thy now grossly abuse.
The RSPCA is one charity Iwill not donate to, their methods and policies need looking at. They waste their donations.
went off the RSPCA a few years ago, due to this kind of thing, dont support them at all now. Prefer to support other more humane charities.
Wow I am disgusted!! I am not spending about more money on this pathetic charity poor animals I can't believe it
Well. The end of the year is here. Time to decide once again who my charitable donations go to for the New Year. I have always and traditionally supported two - the MacMillan Nurses and the RSPCA. Guess who wont be on the list for 2013?
My donations to the RSPCA will cease with immediate effect - I shall urge other donors known to me to consider this report and also withdraw their funding. We'll see how the dole queue suits these 'animal care' charlatans.
never now give to the RSPCA . There policy of homing animals is too arbitrary, we got out kittens from a private seller as they would not entertain us potential owners as both my husband and I worked and w had children! !! Our children love our cats have been taught how to care who something other than themselves which I feel is so important in a child development. They did not help when I found a stray cat it was the Cat protection league that offered the best advice. Friends who have had dogs all there lives were put off. Getting a dog from them. Even friends who wanted save rabbits and guinea received patronising advice, All went via the private market to get their pets No wonder they have to put animals down. There are a lot of horrible people out there that are evil to animals but the RSPCA treat everyone like animal abusers. Animals miss out on loving homes as a result.
This is disgusting I heard about this before but didn't believe it,I will not be giving any money to them any more,my money will go to no kill shelters


Officially, the ‘P’ in RSPCA stands for ‘prevention’. It is — is it not? — the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
But might it not as easily be called the Royal Society for the Prosecution of Cruelty to Animals? Has one of Britain’s oldest and most-cherished charities become a branch office of the London legal profession, and a highly politicised one at that?
This week saw the conclusion of a legal case which the RSPCA brought against Oxfordshire’s Heythrop Hunt. Coincidentally or not, it is based in David Cameron’s Witney constituency and is a social magnet for some of Mr Cameron’s friends — the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’.
RSPCA: Has one of Britain's oldest and most-cherished charities become a branch office of the London legal profession, and a highly politicised one at that?
RSPCA: Has one of Britain's oldest and most-cherished charities become a branch office of the London legal profession, and a highly politicised one at that?
Much was made of this by Labour MPs yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions. Indeed, there are some people who say that the RSPCA picked on the Heythrop simply because it had a link with the PM and that would inevitably generate some publicity — which is always good for fund-raising.
The Heythrop was found to have erred under the anti-hunting laws introduced by the Blair government. Evidence against the hunt included a video, a brief section of which showed foxhounds ripping into the carcass of a fox.
Anti-hunt protestors opposed to the Cameron Government had filmed hundreds of hours of evidence, but it was only this tiny fragment that amounted to anything approaching conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.
Jeremy Carter-Manning QC, the expensive London barrister hired to prosecute the Heythrop, became almost poetic in his condemnation of the hunt after that video had been played. ‘The hounds converge in semi-circles and the screaming reaches a crescendo,’ he said. ‘The hounds are making a killing.’
But it has not been the hounds alone who have been making a killing. Lawyers have been doing much the same, earning fat fees from a charity whose funds come from donations and bequests from the public.
Among those lawyers is Mr Carter-Manning, an urbane fellow who is not infrequently found acting for the defence in money-laundering cases, and who once advised a potential defendant in the ‘Cash for Honours’ affair of the Blair years.
It is perhaps not surprising that faced by such a poohbah of the Bar, confronted by this most lugubrious and silken of silks, the legally inexperienced hunt followers from the Heythrop pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates Court before the case went any further up the legal foodchain.
Evidence: The footage which was shown in court shows a fox being killed by hounds during a hunt. It was only this tiny fragment that amounted to anything approaching conclusive evidence of wrongdoing
Evidence: The footage which was shown in court shows a fox being killed by hounds during a hunt. It was only this tiny fragment that amounted to anything approaching conclusive evidence of wrongdoing
But how strong was the case against the Heythrop? Did the video really prove an intention by the hunt’s human members to pursue and kill foxes? Or did it merely catch the very natural behaviour of hounds doing what hounds do? That, in itself, is not a crime.
District Judge Tim Pattinson, who presided over the Heythrop case, noted witheringly that the £330,000 spent on the case by the RSPCA was ‘a quite staggering sum’. He said that he imagined ‘members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed’.
That £330,000 can be set against the costs of just £19,500 paid by the defendants.
Does Judge Pattinson not have a point? Do his remarks not illustrate something very unsettling about the modern RSPCA, namely that it has strayed a long way from its old image and its past concerns?
By strange irony, the RSPCA was founded in the 19th century by an MP, Richard Martin, who was himself a keen fox hunter.
Target? There are some people who say that the RSPCA picked on the Heythrop simply because it had a link with Cameron
Target? There are some people who say that the RSPCA picked on the Heythrop simply because it had a link with Cameron
His concern was for the mistreatment of cattle — something which should continue to trouble us today, though one seldom hears the RSPCA say so. But then, cattle offer less lurid headlines than foxes. Foxes are more political.
And political the RSPCA now looks, even though charity law prevents it siding (openly, at least) with any political party.
It edged on to dangerous territory a decade ago when it appointed a former Lib Dem MP, Jackie Ballard, as its top executive. Mrs Ballard had a pronounced record of attacking Tories over fox hunting.
Her place has since been taken by Gavin Grant, a politically savvy former PR man. He seems to be taking the RSPCA into more militant waters, not least in its policy on the Government’s cull of badgers (which may help stop cattle having to be slaughtered once they have caught TB).
As the RSPCA’s image changes, what does its public think? We cannot be sure, but support has been draining away at an alarming rate.
Income has fallen so badly that 90 of its 1,100 staff are being cut.
And yet the spending on lawyers is still enormous. Accounts from last year show that the RSPCA used £8.7 million of its outgoings of £120 million on prosecutions.
At what point does this stop being an animal welfare concern and start to become a subsidiary of London’s Temple?
RSPCA supporters include many Mail readers who have a proud and honourable record of supporting animal welfare causes. I myself used to give money to the RSPCA, and as a boy I was an avid reader of its magazine for youngsters, Animal Ways.
As the owner of two dotty terriers, I hope I could never be accused of being an animal hater. I do not hunt. I have ridden only a couple of times, one of which ended with me on my backside on terra firma after the pony in question kicked its hind legs in the air.
Love of animals is something plumbed deep into our British veins and that is no doubt why the Royal Family has, for more than a century, been happy to be associated with the charity.
Not that you will find much mention of the Royal Family (who, of course, are keen field-sports enthusiasts) in the RSPCA’s literature. It is rather bigger, these days, on mentions of ‘celebrity supporters’ such as the Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson and chatshow host Paul O’Grady, aka Lily Savage.
When we put our £5 notes (and much more in some cases) into those RSPCA collection statues shaped like waggy-tailed dogs, did we actually realise that the money was likely to be spent on long legal prosecutions?
Even if the answer is yes, did we expect the defendants (as happened in the Heythrop case when two hunt members were singled out alongside the hunt itself) to be elderly countrymen who plainly love horses and, whatever you might think about their attitude to foxes, clearly have a deep knowledge of animal husbandry?
Prominent friends of the RSPCA fear that the charity is in danger of going off the rails.
Conservative MP Bill Wiggin (Leominster), a former Shadow Agriculture Minister whose animal welfare work has been recognised by the RSPCA, says: ‘I have seen for myself some of the vital work the RSPCA does.
‘People want to think of RSPCA inspectors rescuing animals, especially dogs and cats, from cruelty and re-homing them. Donors would not want this sort of good work eclipsed by spending hard-won funds on lawyers.’
The editor of Dogs Today magazine recently said on the BBC that the RSPCA is finding it cannot uphold the Animal Welfare Act in the case of puppy farms — where some terrible allegations of cruelty have been made — because ‘they say they [the RSPCA] haven’t got the money to apply it’.
Should the RSPCA funds spent on the Heythrop prosecution, and on other cases harrying field-sports enthusiasts, not be devoted to harmless puppies rather than verminous foxes which (sorry, folks, but this is the truth of nature, red in tooth and claw) decapitate lambs and hens, not even bothering to lick the guts off their quivering bodies before loping away into darkness?
Although some animal rights professionals (and ‘professionals’ they often are) become highly vexed about fox hunting, are there not more serious problems for the RSPCA to address?
The problem of out-of-control dogs in cities, for instance, is something many MPs hear about from their constituents.
Bill Wiggin raises the recent, alarming rise in cases when blind people have had their guide dogs attacked in the street by savage ‘trophy’ dogs, often some form of pit-bull terrier. When this happens, guide dogs are not only often badly injured, but are sometimes left so traumatised that they can no longer do their work.
Is this not something for the RSPCA to spend its money on rather than the services of that bewigged scrivener at Furnival Chambers, London, that sophisticate of money-laundering law, Mr Jeremy Carter-Manning QC?


Revealed: RSPCA destroys HALF of the animals that it rescues - yet thousands are completely healthy
  • Shock figures reveal 3,400 animals put down for 'non-medical reasons'
  • Whistleblower claims she shot healthy dogs 'because there was no room'
  • Statistics show 10,000 fewer animals were rehomed in 2011
  • But charity's prosecutions of rogue pet owners leap 20 per cent
  • Countryside Alliance says charity should lose right to call itself Royal
The RSPCA destroys nearly half the animals it ‘rescues’ each year, with thousands being put down for non-medical reasons, shocking figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal.
of those it took in – leading critics to claim that the organisation spends too much time on prosecuting cases of neglect.
The animal-welfare charity destroyed 53,000 animals last year – 44 per cent of those it took in – leading critics to claim that the organisation spends too much time on prosecuting cases of neglect and cruelty and not enough on finding new homes for animals.

The charity insists the vast majority of the animals were put down to end their suffering, but it admits that last year alone 3,400 animals were destroyed for ‘non-medical’ reasons, such as the lack of space in kennels and catteries.
Figures have revealed the RSPCA routinely puts down healthy animals, with 3,400 destroyed in 2011 for 'non-medical reasons (file picture)
Figures have revealed the RSPCA routinely puts down healthy animals, with 3,400 destroyed in 2011 for 'non-medical reasons (file picture)

Death sentence: Human bolt guns, like the one pictured, are often used to kill pets
Death sentence: Human bolt guns, like the one pictured, are often used to kill pets
In 2009, the RSPCA, which is one of Britain’s biggest charities and receives £120 million a year in donations, stopped accepting stray animals and unwanted pets.
The number of animals re-homed has dropped from 70,000 in 2009 to 60,000 last year, while the number of convictions secured has leapt by 20 per cent. Figures obtained for the past five years show that 46 per cent of animals rescued by the charity were put down.
And today, The Mail on Sunday reveals a whistleblower’s account, raising concerns – denied by the organisation – that the charity kills more healthy animals than necessary.
Former RSPCA inspector Dawn Aubrey-Ward, who worked for the organisation from 2008 to 2010, said she came across numerous examples of animals destroyed because there was no room for them in shelters.
‘If there wasn’t any room in the nearby RSPCA home or one of a number of approved charities, we were supposed to euthanise them,’ she claims.
The figures have also revealed the charity is rehoming fewer pets, with 10,000 fewer finding new owners in 2011 (file picture)
The figures have also revealed the charity is rehoming fewer pets, with 10,000 fewer finding new owners in 2011 (file picture)
The RSPCA insists that euthanising animals is always a ‘last resort’, but a Mail on Sunday investigation has unearthed others criticising the charity’s approach.
Kent vet David Smith, who worked for the organisation for 12 years, said: ‘It seems to be all about prosecuting people now.
‘The RSPCA seems to have lost sight of its role as a charity that was set up to help people and animals.’
In the past two years, convictions secured by the charity have increased from 2,579 to 3,114. Last year, spinster Georgina Langley, 67, of West Hougham, Kent, was raided at her home by the RSPCA and had five of her 13 cats put down.
The charity prosecuted her for neglect, but Mr Smith, 62, came to her aid. After sending two of the cats’ bodies to the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) for an independent post-mortem, he said: ‘There appears to be no good reason why the RSPCA allowed these animals to be put to sleep.
‘The RVC post-mortems concluded the cats were healthy, with no signs of incorrect feeding or major problems with fleas or other illnesses.
‘They were very heavy-handed with an elderly lady and kept her standing out in her garden in the rain for hours while they searched her house.
Despite fewer animals being found new homes, the RSPCA's prosecutions of rogue pet owners shot up by 20 per cent
Despite fewer animals being found new homes, the RSPCA's prosecutions of rogue pet owners shot up by 20 per cent (file pic)
‘All the cats required was some flea spray. When I started doing work for them, the inspectors rarely prosecuted people – it was mostly about helping people to care for the animals. They would go and check on OAPs and make sure they have flea treatment etc, and that just never happens these days.
‘They always seem to want to go for prosecution, no matter what, and I hear the same story from other vets.’
Following a three-day trial in May 2012, the RSPCA dropped 11 of the 13 charges against Miss Langley.
She pleaded guilty to failing to get veterinary care quickly enough for two of her animals. An RSPCA spokesperson said: ‘Five of the cats were put to sleep on veterinary advice. The reason we had to get these cats out of the property is that the conditions they were in were appalling.’
Another former RSPCA employee, Angela Egan-Ravenscroft, shared Ms Aubrey-Ward’s misgivings about the RSPCA.
The Countryside Alliance has called on the RSPCA to lose its Royal name, after the charity prosecuted the Heythrop hunt, pictured here on Boxing Day, for illegally killing foxes
The Countryside Alliance has called on the RSPCA to lose its Royal name, after the charity prosecuted the Heythrop hunt, pictured here on Boxing Day, for illegally killing foxes
Ms Egan-Ravenscroft was branch co-ordinator for the RSPCA London region between 1990 and 2000. Disillusioned with the way the charity was being run, she left and went to work for the Countryside Alliance.
She said: ‘Healthy, well-adjusted, rehomeable animals were being destroyed, and I didn’t want to be part of an organisation that did that.
‘The RSPCA has badly lost its way and all of its reasons for being set up in the first place have been subverted. The grass-roots animal welfare no longer exists.’
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: ‘It is simply not true that the RSPCA routinely puts down healthy animals.
‘We do need to put animals to sleep when it is in their interests.
‘Nobody who works for the RSPCA wants to have to put rehomeable animals to sleep but it is a sad reality of the work that we do.
‘Although the trend is in decline, the RSPCA sometimes has to put some rehomeable animals to sleep simply because they cannot be found good homes.’
Not all organisations feel that it necessary to destroy healthy animals, however.
Dogs Trust, for example, still takes in strays, but refuses to euthanise healthy animals.


The RSPCA has become a ‘politically motivated animal rights organisation’ and should be stripped of its Royal name, according to Sir Barney White-Spunner, head of the Countryside Alliance.
He spoke out after the Heythrop, David Cameron’s local hunt in Oxfordshire, was convicted of illegally killing foxes after a private prosecution brought by the RSPCA.
The case cost the RSPCA almost £327,000 which the judge said was ‘staggering’ and suggested ‘members of the public may feel RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed’.
Sir Barney said: ‘Why is this Society still Royal? I don’t want to involve the Royal Family, but I will raise it with the relevant committee in Whitehall.
‘It was once a great institution. But the direction it’s going is very sad. The RSPCA is becoming a politically motivated animal rights organisation and I don’t think that’s why people give it money. We will look to the Charity Commission to investigate if the RSPCA is in breach of its charitable objectives.’
The RSPCA said: ‘The RSPCA and its trustees have acted entirely within the society’s charitable objectives and procedures and Charity Law.’

RSPCA whistleblower claims she was forced to put down fit pets during her time with charity
A former RSPCA inspector claims the charity is killing more healthy animals than necessary by branding them ‘unsuitable for rehoming’.
Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Dawn Aubrey-Ward says she was forced to put down many healthy pets during her two years with the organisation.
Ms Aubrey-Ward claimed large numbers of animals, particularly dogs, were put to sleep after being classed ‘unsuitable for rehoming’, but that the definition could be widely drawn to often include older animals, those needing veterinary care, dogs deemed ‘aggressive’ or larger dogs which were ‘hard to home’.
Proud: Dawn Aubrey-Ward receives an RSPCA award for rescuing a lamb. She has accused the charity of killing animals that are fit and healthy
Proud: Dawn Aubrey-Ward receives an RSPCA award for rescuing a lamb. She has accused the charity of killing animals that are fit and healthy
The RSPCA strenuously denies Ms Aubrey-Ward’s claims, describing her as a ‘disgruntled former employee’.
Ms Aubrey-Ward, 44, a divorced mother of four from Martock, Somerset, joined the RSPCA as a trainee inspector in 2007. But she soon found herself at odds with what she described as its ‘antiquated military-style’ regime which placed ‘prosecution and persecution’ of owners ahead of protection of their pets.
Ms Aubrey-Ward went on: ‘The RSPCA’s image was that they care for animals, prevent cruelty and help and advise people with animals. I was horrified when I learned we were going to have to put down healthy animals because we didn’t have room for them. It didn’t fit with their public image.’
She won an award from the RSPCA for her part in the rescue of a lamb and received glowing reports for her good work. But when she began to question the practice of putting healthy animals to sleep, she says she found her job was at risk.
‘If there wasn’t any room in the nearby RSPCA home or one of a number of approved charities, we were supposed to euthanise them,’ she said.
Early in her training, Ms Aubrey-Ward says, she saw a young rottweiler put into an RSPCA van for a check-up.
‘The dog, which was surely frightened, growled at the inspector with me. The other inspector said, “That’s it – this is an aggressive dog.” It was put down soon afterwards.’
Later, she rescued a heavily pregnant ‘staffie’ bitch from a cruel owner, along with an aggressive male dog. ‘With some TLC in a nice kennels, and someone to work on her behaviour, she would have been OK. The dog warden and I tried hard to find a space for her but we couldn’t,’ she said.
Caring: Dawn Aubrey-Ward with her pets
Caring: Dawn Aubrey-Ward with her pets
‘The warden took the dogs to RPSCA Hillingdon, where a vet said they should be put to sleep if nowhere could be found for them, and they were killed round the back. The dog warden noosed them and I shot them.’
Ms Aubrey-Ward said she was reprimanded for giving help and advice instead of issuing cautions, including the case of an ill, elderly man whose cat lay dying on his lap.
She took the cat away and put it down and was then upbraided for not cautioning the cat’s devastated owner for neglect.
SHE said: ‘The RSPCA won’t work with people – they see every case as a chance to prosecute, to generate publicity for themselves.’
Her career with the RSPCA ended when her bosses accused her of ‘stealing’ a rescued tortoise which she’d taken home ready to take to an animal centre.
Eventually, after a year of negotiations, she resigned, suffering a mental breakdown and a wrecked marriage, partly caused, she said, by her being posted away from home for long spells.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: ‘Animals in our care are never routinely euthanised on the spot, and certainly not because there are no spaces. Our inspectors regularly go out of their way to find a place many miles away. Over 70 per cent of “on the spot” euthanasia of animal casualties the RSPCA is called out to deal with involve wildlife.
‘RSPCA inspectors are not allowed to use euthanasia drugs on companion animals. They are taken to a veterinary surgeon, who makes an expert assessment.
‘Prosecution is always a last resort. Only a small percentage of the cases the RSPCA investigates end in prosecution.’
The RSPCA’s chief vet Dr James Yeates said: ‘We rehome thousands of animals, but we cannot keep up.
‘So we do the best thing in a bad situation, and sometimes this means having to put to sleep rehomable dogs, cats and rabbits.’
The RSPCA added: ‘Dawn Aubrey-Ward is a disgruntled former employee who was subject to a disciplinary investigation for alleged theft of animals. She left with matters still pending.’

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


'The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable” was how Oscar Wilde described fox hunting. District Judge Tim Pattinson missed a trick in not using the phrase when he rounded on the RSPCA, the animal charity, for spending what he said was a “staggering” amount of money in prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt.
The charity this week won its case at Oxford magistrates court. It was the first time that an entire hunt – rather than an individual huntsman – has been convicted for intentionally hunting a fox with dogs since the ban came into force in 2005. Two huntsmen were also convicted. But it spent £330,000 on the case, 10 times the defence costs.
Judge Pattinson said: “It is not for me to express an opinion...” before swiftly doing so. “But I do find it to be a quite staggering figure.” He also suggested that “members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed”.
The case, and the judge’s intemperate words, have thrown a spotlight on one of Britain’s oldest, largest, richest and increasingly controversial charities.
There are those who say the RSPCA’s new chief executive, Gavin Grant, who joined at the start of this year from a PR company, is driving the charity down a political road. The Heythrop just happens to be the local hunt of the “Chipping Norton Set”, and one that David Cameron has ridden with. And the incident comes just a month after Mr Grant waded into the badger cull debate by promising to “name and shame” any farmers who allowed culling on their land. Mr Grant says that he is ensuring the charity returns firmly to its roots as an animal welfare organisation, and one happy to use the power of the courts to stop cruelty – as it has done every year since it was founded in 1824. The case comes at a key moment in the charity’s life, when it is struggling to increase membership and cut costs, but also as it finds its teeth to fulfil its central charitable mission – namely, that it will “by all lawful means, prevent cruelty, promote kindness to and alleviate suffering of all animals”.
The RSPCA is a strange beast, with members from all walks of life, a good number of whom leave substantial parts of their wills to the cause. Of its annual income of £116 million – making it the UK’s eighth richest charity – nearly half comes from legacies. This is a substantially larger proportion than Cancer Research, the country’s biggest charity, receives. Many of its longest-standing supporters joined it before the 1970s: it was then that the charity started to look at the welfare of all animals, including farm and laboratory animals, whereas previously it had concentrated on pets and companion animals.
Its patrons, too, are emblematic of how the organisation manages to shelter under its umbrella both the establishment and fairly hardcore animal rights activists. Its royal patron is the Queen and its vice-patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury. But it also has as honorary vice president Professor Peter Singer, the author of Animal Liberation, one of the seminal works in the animal rights movement, which proposed the idea humans should not take precedence over other species. A fellow animal rights pioneer, Richard Ryder, author of Animal Revolution, which suggested animals should enjoy all the rights that humans do, sits on the charity’s council of elected members.
All donors and members, however, are united in that they are “against people abusing animals”, says Mr Grant, who adds that the response to the successful prosecution this week “has been, judging by today’s feedback, overwhelmingly in favour of our actions”.
It is sometimes assumed that because RSPCA officers wear uniforms, they have a semi-official status and that the charity has special powers. While it is true that the charity spends the bulk of its money on training and funding its inspectorate, who investigate alleged cruelty, often in tandem with the police, they do not have special powers. The RSPCA is, as all charities are, a private organisation. It has the right, as all private individuals do, to bring private prosecutions against anyone it suspects has broken the law.
It is believed that no other organisation in Britain brings more prosecutions than the RSPCA; it is one of its key methods of achieving its mission to end cruelty. Lawyers say it is very unusual for private prosecutions to be brought. The NSPCC, the children’s charity, used to do it on a regular basis, but in recent years the Crown Prosecution Service has taken on this role.
“We are seen by the police and the CPS as experts in prosecuting animal cruelty and we take our responsibilities to the court very seriously,” Mr Grant says. Last year, the RSPCA secured 3,114 convictions by private prosecution, which its critics say represents an awful lot of its time and money being tied up in court.
Mr Grant points out that prosecution is always a last resort and that these convictions were secured after a total of 160,000 complaints of alleged cruelty were investigated by its internal investigations unit, many of whose number are ex-police officers.
Nevertheless, the RSPCA’s total spend on bringing cases is eye-catching. Its annual accounts for last year say that £8.7 million of its total outgoings of £120 million was spent on prosecutions. And its critics say it is overly zealous with prosecutions, often employing expensive and high-powered QCs to represent the charity in fairly minor magistrate court cases against pet shop owners, for instance.
Leading Barrister Jonathan Rich brands RSPCA "aggressive"
Jonathan Rich, a barrister at Five Paper chambers, says: “I’ve been at the Bar for 25 years and I’ve defended hundreds of people involving prosecutions brought by the RSPCA. And they are unusually aggressive in their tactics. In fact, you will experience more aggression from the RSPCA than almost any other litigant.”
To which Mr Grant says: “The notion that we will, at a drop of a hat, prosecute a confused old lady who has forgotten to feed her cat is just not true.”
The other major accusation is that the RSPCA is becoming more political, and that is a charge becoming difficult to ignore. The National Farmers Union claims that farmers, many of whom are supporters of the RSPCA, feel alienated from the charity after it tried to stop the badger cull. Martin Haworth, director of policy at the NFU, says: “The RSPCA stepped over the line. It was despicable to threaten farmers in the way they did. It is one thing to express your opinion, another to intervene in such a politically motivated way.”
One thing that these high-profile incidents do is create headlines. And these can be helpful for any charity, especially in the current climate, with the proportion of people giving to charity falling from 58 per cent in 2011 to 55 per cent this year, according to the Charities Aid Foundation.
The RSPCA may have had an income of £116 million last year, but its costs are under pressure as they are in most businesses. And the total going out is higher than the amount coming in. Mr Grant has been forced to cut 90 jobs from the 1,700 staff in recent months, a move for which he does not apologise. “My responsibility is to run the most efficient animal welfare charity in the country possible.”
All the while its membership is falling. There are just 26,043 members, down from 47,298 a decade ago, a fall of 45 per cent. The chief executive is playing a high-stakes game. He risks losing long-standing countryside supporters in return for greater publicity and, possibly, greater revenues.