Trouble at the RSPCA, BBC Panorama Program

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On Thursday 3rd of August the Beeb, shown a program – Panorama – Trouble at the RSPCA – this program was advertised showing issues with ‘being heavy-handed by prosecuting them and taking away their animals” also within the 30 min program was shown ex-staff of the RSPCA and ex-staff of the Charity Commission.

To go into detail the program shown three examples of people accusing the charity of being heavy handed with prosecutions – I have no doubt the RSPCA were correct to prosecute in all three cases! Since the program the RSPCA has released statements on each case – which the BBC should have sought prior to publishing the program and explained in better detail.

62 Cats in one house

62 Cats – don’t protect this persons feelings – that womans was a hoarder – if provided with advice by the RSPCA (where she used to work, so knows what it takes) and that was ignored then yes she should have been prosecuted to reduce those numbers down. The woman is now refusing to accept the court conviction and trying to claim against the RSPCA – a ridiculous notion which her solicitors should have advised against due to cost – even when she knows the RSPCA were advised by her VET1 of the situation! I play with my cat at least an hour a day and she has FIV and herpes, something some of those cats will have also had. All cats should be monitored for temp, weight, toilet habits and how much she is eating, as they don’t show signs of distress as easily as other animals – this couldn’t be done with SIXTY TWO of them along with other animals too!

Yaay maths time; let’s say you needed to spend just 10mins with each cat a day (be that grooming on a monday, weighing on a tues, claw clipping wed etc) thats 10.5 HOURS A DAY!!! That doesn’t even include feeding or litter cleaning and 10mins per day doing anything with a cat is not really enough, not to mention she had other “pets” too! Articles also state “She doesn’t have the inclination or the means to inoculate them”2 so the cats didn’t even have the needed vaccinations to protect them from the virus prevalent in the house!

The show implied it was just her and there were no others in the house with her to spread the tasks to, nor did the show or any other media advise of any paid help either. So unless this woman is some form of McFly then an average person wouldn’t be able to provide a suitable domestic environment. What if they were allowed out too, it makes no comment if they were house cats – how could you do any tasks needed and monitor 62 cats you didn’t even know if they’d been in the house, advertising as a ‘sanctuary’ you’d like to think they weren’t roaming the streets!!!

This is a clean cut case! Hoarding to the point of Cruelty is still Cruelty, regardless of intentions!

 

 

 

 

Essentially what Panorama have done here is provide validity to people who have abused animals to say – i’m allowed to and shouldn’t be stopped. The BBC should not have allowed the program to air.

Trustees

too many allegations are thrown his way and I agree the governance doesn’t sound correct! He should step down to protect the charity from further disrepute coming from his involvement

Governance

changes since the 70s but only after charity had correclty gone through a governace review 34

Barristers – known people who have protected animal abusers – why the hell would the RSPCA not make complaints about someone who is supposed to have a moral requirement to uphold the law and the law is the Animal Welfare Act.

ex-CE of the Charity Commission involved in the show is not appropriate and not acceptable that a person in such a position involves themselves regarding a specific charity – along with putting their names to a program which tried to make animal abusers seem like they’re disadvantaged by prosecution.

Heavy handed with prosecutions – no chance – 1 in 200 prosecuted is nowhere near enough! Don’t be ridiculous!

 

Sensitisation is poor reporting! This is clear from the advert directly after the program asking “Is it possible that a pill prescribed by your doctor can turn you into a killer?” – this question is clearly worded in a manner not suited to unbiased publishing and is the TV version of Clickbait! Its well known Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors remove some emotion, obviously, their main aim is to reduce depression and work by stopping serotonin from being reabsorbed – so it builds up within the body rather than being removed by the body. One of the most prescribed medications in america Prozac is an SSSI medication. Medication does not make people kill, medication removes the depression which held them back from killing and increases their emotional state and motivation to do what makes them happy, sadly some people are psychopaths – you cannot blame the medication but the services that went with it, anyone on high doses of medication or with severe depression should be receiving frequent therapy to guide them and make certain they’re not going down dangerous paths (even then most people who have a want to murder don’t go telling people about it!)  The author of this received much backlash on Twitter, and rightfully so – Correlation does not mean Causation – every journalist should have this tattooed on their wrist.

Transcript of the Program - Click Here

Tonight the animal owners who claimed that one of our best loved charities is being too hard on them. It is the way they handle things. It is their away or the highway. The British public backs the RSPCA to prosecute animal cruelty, but does it always get it right? To be told I was mistreating birds of prey has left me feeling absolutely broken. And is the charity so determined to succeed it ignores the human cost? It went on for years and years, and it ground me down. I still feel injured. Former RSPCA insiders worry there is chaos at the top. I personally think that the RSPCA commentary is not fit for purpose.

We ask is the world’s oldest animal charity doing its best to keep public trust? We love our animals. My dog is called Bertie. Shall we go for a run? He is going to be my sidekick on this investigation. Or is it the other way around? Where is the stick, Bertie? He’s half toy poodle and half whippet, so he will keep me on my toes. Sometimes… It feels like he’s the master and I’m the dog. Woofety woof woof woof. Some animals don’t get love and affection like Bertie. That is why we need the RSPCA. The RSPCA has a full-scale rescue service…

It has been standing up for animals since 1824. The RSPCA gets more than 100 million per year in donations and legacies. Its inspectors see some extremely distressing sights. From stray dogs shown in this campaign video, outright cruelty. All of these dogs, filmed by an inspector, died. Many of them are in rigor mortis already. The RSPCA prosecuted the dog breeders who did this. They didn’t go to jail but were banned for life from owning dogs. The charity’s most powerful weapon in protecting animals is bringing private prosecutions. But some animal owners complain it is being too heavy-handed. This is the RSPCA headquarters here in Sussex. Critics say the charity has long been too quick to prosecute animal owners and too aggressive. Three years ago in independent report took the charity to task over the way it prosecutes people. How much has changed?

Good morning. This is Bertie. Hello, Bertie. Steve Rainton has been displaying birds of prey for 20 years. He is now helped by his partner, Natalie. Amazing, we’ve had her for five years. Stand well back… Last year Steve and Natalie faced getting criminal records when they were prosecuted by the RSPCA. Good girl. Steve said it all started when somebody he knew took four birds from his farm. Worried the rest of the birds were at risk Steve took them home in cages for temporary safekeeping and rang the RSPCA. Originally we asked the RSPCA for some help. Where we were keeping the birds wasn’t safe and we needed somewhere else to keep the birds. What Steve didn’t know was that the RSPCA had received a complaint about him mistreating the birds. When inspectors called at his home he let them in. He wished he hadn’t. Once they were in they started taking photographs, you know, trying to gather evidence against me. And that’s the way I felt bullied by the RSPCA. RSPCA inspectors do not have powers of seizure, so they called the police who took Steve’s birds away. Steve was charged by the RSPCA with eight animal welfare offences. Natalie, who does not own the birds, also faced eight charges. They used my partner. They basically said they would drop all charges against my partner if I took the rap, basically. I’d never broken the law. I’ve never been in trouble. To be told I was mistreating birds of prey, it just left me feeling… Absolutely broken. Earlier this year magistrates cleared Steve and Natalie of two charges. The other 14 were dismissed. The RSPCA says it is because of police mistakes. The whole thing of them being there to help you, in my case, wasn’t the case. Up until the day they knocked on my front door while we saw them as a good charity. The RSPCA said it acted properly and lawfully throughout. There was sufficient evidence. And that it was in the public interest.

It says it prosecuted around 800 people last year, down by 50% in four years. If an RSPCA inspector investigates a complaint of cruelty, that person has less than one chance in 200 of being prosecuted. Certainly not trigger-happy. Most of it is now dealt with by way of advisory notices and warnings. In fact most of it is dealt with by a reasonable conversation on the doorstep. Giving reasonable advice. Reasonable people take reasonable advice. The RSPCA and its inspectors do good work. No question. And criticising a much loved animal charity may not make me popular. But what can happen to an animal owner if there is no reasonable conversation on the doorstep? If no advice is given?

Gwyn Protheroe farms over 5000 sheep in mid Wales. These sheepdogs are working animals. Without them he cannot do his job. Last year the RSPCA prosecuted Gwyn following the death of one of his dogs. She was a working dog. It’s not clear why she died. But she was thin and had been a small dog from birth. From the vet’s report and postmortem done by the RSPCA they found a problem with her liver and her heart. The dog lay unburied for two days. She died while Gwyn was working 60 miles away. An RSPCA inspector called the police, who removed the dead dog and two of the sheepdogs. The RSPCA said he hadn’t done enough to prevent the death and that living conditions were poor. He was charged with three animal welfare offences. It’s the way they handled things, you know? It is their way or the highway, basically, you know? The case took a year to come to court and had a big effect on the family. What was it like when he was charged? Scary. It wasn’t a nice feeling. I felt really bad for dad because he isn’t a bad person. He didn’t really, like, deserve it. What did you say to them? That it would all be all right? Which it was proved, wasn’t it? I’m sorry… A judge dismissed the case, saying Gwyn has considerable expertise as an animal owner and acted reasonably. How did you feel when that verdict came through not guilty on all counts? Relieved. A sense of justice. Because he was cleared the dogs should have been returned. But, extraordinary as it seems, they were not. RSPCA staff asked if they could keep the dogs and re-homed them. I got a phone call, she asked the question again, the people in the kennels have got attached to the dogs. The RSPCA said it kept hold of the dogs while it considered to appeal. It would be two months before they found out if they would get their dogs back. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to keep, again, prolonging the process of us getting the dogs back. You keep thinking everything is coming to a close. But it was like they were ripping the wound open again. The RSPCA says it was right to prosecute. And while some cases don’t succeed 92.5% of its prosecutions are successful.

There is very, very rigorous process by which the evidence is checked to make sure we meet the evidential test. We get the experts in, we depend on an independent veterinary opinion as to the degree of suffering. Once the matter goes to court it is for the magistrate to convict or acquit. Fighting animal cruelty is important but has the RSPCA sometimes gone too far? Barrister Jonathan Rich stopped defending RSPCA cases nine years ago. I gained a firm impression that I was really being personally targeted. It reached a stage where my involvement in cases was actually not helping my clients, because they would throw significant resources at any case in which I was involved. He also faced a number of professional misconduct complaints linked to animal welfare cases. Two from the RSPCA. I have seen a lot of the rough and tumble of the bar. But this was in an entirely different league. And it went on for years and years and years, and it ground me down. I still feel today, I still feel injured. None of the complaints succeeded. One from the RSPCA took eight years to be fully resolved. I got pretty low. I was treated for depression. I’m not embarrassed to say that. Do you still defend animal cases? If the RSPCA are involved I will not be appearing as an advocate. Which is a great shame, given the expertise I believe I brought. Barrister Sara-Lise Howe believes she has been singled out, too. She says the CPS was warned she wanted to undermine RSPCA private prosecutions. I have no doubt that they have been targeting me. I was 16 years in court, I’d never had these accusations. Just trying to represent my client. To get the court to look at the law. The RSPCA says the criticism to the CPS about Sara-Lise Howe was made in error and nnot at their request. It respects and upholds the vital role played by defence lawyers in testing the prosecution’s case. For the RSPCA to do its job properly it must be well run.

This June the Chief Executive Jeremy Cooper resigned. The second to do so in three years. Trouble at the top should be a worry for any charity. If I am a donor I want to know my money is going to be well spent. And the chances are significantly higher that my money as a donor is going to be well spent if the charity is well governed, well led, sound decisions are made. The RSPCA staff are overseen by 25 unpaid trustee is called the council. They are supposed to keep an eye on things, not run the show.

One of the key rules, really, is that trustees in a large charity shouldn’t really dabble in operational matters. That is for paid staff. But we’ve discovered that’s what’s been going on at the RSPCA. Chris Lawrence used to be the charity’s chief vet before he became a trustee. The RSPCA are essentially is a great organisation. Fantastic staff who work incredibly hard. But you come to a point where you have to say enough is enough, I can’t any longer support the way this is happening. I had real concerns about the way the RSPCA was being run at council level. He’s never spoken publicly about leaving the charity he loves. The Council found it really difficult to properly delegate. What does that mean? It means almost micromanagement. Chris Laurence resigned as a trustee last year. His fellow trustee, David Canavan, is still there. The RSPCA spends £50 million a year responding to complaints from the general public about abuse of animals. He’s speaking to MPs about fundraising. The two years, the RSPCA allowed him and another trustee to run the charity unpaid, while it was without a chief executive. For any charity, doing both jobs at the same time, for such a long time, would be a no-no. For a large charity, that is off the bscale, in terms of being so unusual. I find it difficult to see how a large charity could properly run itself if it doesn’t have a permanent chief executive who is independent from the nonexecutive trustee team. This is the Manchester Animal Hospital, the RSPCA’s busiest. It provides extremely subsidised neutering, micro-chipping, vaccinations, to quite a poor -ish area within Manchester. Three years ago, Steve Carter was asked to look at redistributing some of its vet services to branches across the North of England. Among them, Rochdale, 16 miles away. It was a branch that struggled financially. It tried to do the best it could, but it overextended itself. Steve Carter says getting more vet services could have helped Rochdale’s finances and says David Canavan was keen on the move. At the time, he was also an unpaid trustee of the Rochdale branch. That’s a conflict-of-interest, isn’t it? I believe it is. I made it very clear to trustees and two senior management that this was not a decision I could support in any way, shape or form. Steve feared it could have meant closure for the Manchester Animal Hospital. I did not want to see that provision deteriorate in any shape or form. That was one of the main reasons that I decided I had to leave the RSPCA. The RSPCA says it did discuss its Northern operations. No changes were made and there was never any suggestion the Manchester hospital would close. It says there was no improper interference by David Canavan and as acting chief executive he oversaw a period of stability and sound management.

Brighton, a stone’s throw from RSPCA HQ. We’ve been told that what happened here reveals more cracks behind the scenes. Nationally, the RSPCA has a policy against anyone importing dogs for commercial purposes. But here in Brighton, the local branch was re-homed scores of dogs from Spain and Portugal in apparent conflict with that policy. Around 150 dogs over three years were imported by another animal welfare organisation, and brought to these RSPCA kennels. They were then re-homed. The Brighton branch had lots of British Staffies, which are hard to home, and was keen to offer a mix of breeds. The RSPCA said the dogs were not being imported for commercial purposes. The RSPCA told us the Brighton branch didn’t profit from re-homing these animals, but we found out the issue did worry some staff. They couldn’t support others transporting animals hundreds of miles across Europe, when there were plenty of British dogs to help at home. Trustee David Canavan got involved in 2014. At the time he was also effectively running the charity. We understand that David Canavan told the branch that so long as 40% of the dogs in my kennels were brought to them by inspectors, they could fill the remaining space is how they wanted, providing the trustees and legal department didn’t object. The RSPCA said any suggestion David Canavan acted contrary to its policies is completely untrue. He referred the matter to the Chief Vet and the RSPCA revised its policy, so the branch had to get permission on a case-by-case basis. It says the branch was trying to help as many unwanted dogs as it could, and its main focus remains local animals. At the top is the RSPCA a smoothly running organisation? I personally think that the RSPCA, currently, is not fit for purpose. I think it stems from the background of counsel. I don’t think the government process and structure has moved on much since the 1970s. Wipe-out this is the headquarters of the Charity Commission, it’s the body charged with making sure our charities are up to snuff. It told Panorama that the RSPCA’s governance is below the standard it would expect from a modern charity. It is monitoring the trustees’ role in leading change will consider regulatory action if the required improvements aren’t made quickly enough. The RSPCA says its trustees are working with the Charity Commission to implement the recommendations of a recent independent review. The RSPCA has its own reform agenda.

It wants for more powers to investigate, so it has to rely less on the police. Its supporters say only the charity has the necessary expertise and resources to prosecute. Critics argue it should be left to the police. The type of cruelty that the public disapproves of is obvious. It doesn’t require a specialist organisation to prosecute. I’m on my way to see one of Sara-Lise Howe’s clients. Sarah Mellanby lost her appeal against conviction for seven animal welfare offences earlier this year. That some of my cats there. That’s Leonard and Elmo. Puff Daddy, Thomas O’Malley and that’s Hubert. Sarah used to a large home to shelter unwanted cats. So who have we got here? That is Lionel Blair. LAUGHTER I know, super hair. Dennis the Menace, Charles Worthington. Some people would say looking at this that you are a mad cat lady. Yes,

they probably would. Are you a mad cat lady? Guests. Where are your cats? I don’t have any. Four years ago she had more than 60. You had 60 cats, 62 cats. Isn’t that a bit crazy? Well, I’m too soft, I’m just too soft. They were unwanted cats and I was homing them. Some of the cats she took and had cat flu, which is contagious and can be nasty. I kept them and kept them comfortable. It’s not good, but they were alive, they were as well as they could be. The RSPCA, which made repeated visits, disagreed. It says some were emaciated, as well as cat flu others had problems with their eyes and teeth. And it says she failed to seek appropriate care from a vet. All her cats were removed and Sarah was tried and convicted. I think a lot of the people who have had problems with the RSPCA are people who would be described as vulnerable. The mad old lady who takes into many cats, they have got themselves into a mess for caring, because they care too much. I think that is a big difference from someone who delights in seeing an animal suffer. The RSPCA tried to help and advise Sarah. The appeal judge said she was deaf to that advice and the idea that the RSPCA were treating her harshly was not supported by the evidence. But he did reduce her sentence, so, after four years, 21 cats could come home.

A vet who supported Sarah throughout, is no fan of the RSPCA. What does somebody like Sarah do with cats that are left on her doorstep? Take those cats in or discard them, shut the door and leave them to die? What’s the options? Yes, we know that a lot of these cats were chronically infected with cat flu. They have been and they will remain that way. The RSPCA asked the court to make Sarah pay some of their costs. She now has a £100,000 charge on her home, to be paid to the RSPCA when she sells it.

My heart’s been broken. They’ve just warn me down and I’ve been depressed. They’re just like this giant machine that just crawls through people’s lives and they’ve got no way of getting out of it. The RSPCA says it prosecuted as a last resort. It was endorsed by the appeal judge and the Crown Prosecution Service. The costs were high because it took so long to conclude the case, and this was not the RSPCA’s fault. The RSPCA says it only prosecute when mistreatment is serious, cruelty blatant and when other ways to help animal and owner have been exhausted.

Back in Wales, the Protheroes are still waiting to hear if they’ll get their sheepdogs back. Three days after Panorama wrote to the RSPCA, the dogs were finally returned. Can one if you open the door while I left her in, please? Outside the Protheroes’ solicitors… It’s a big relief. It’s nice to see them. They’re looking OK, aren’t you? Hope they’ll be as happy to be home as we are to have them home. The RSPCA says the delay in returning the dogs was lawful and proper, while it decided whether to appeal. For many, including its critics, the

RSPCA remains a great British charity. I think the RSPCA is overall a force for good. The inspectors do good work every single day, there are out there in all conditions. Charity fight the RSPCA depend on more than donations, they also need public support. Public trust and public confidence in the work that charities do will only be sustained if charities are seen to be doing the right thing. That means behaving in a responsible, transparent and accountable way.

The RSPCA says it is committed to continually improving everything it does. But to its critics, it stands accused of being a charity that sometimes lacks charity – to humans.

 

Footnotes

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3761668/Vet-tipped-RSPCA-neglected-cats-shelter-later-billed-charity-43-000-treatment.html
  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3761668/Vet-tipped-RSPCA-neglected-cats-shelter-later-billed-charity-43-000-treatment.html
  3. https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/rspca-governance-review-makes-over-40-recommendations.html
  4. https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/latest/details/-/articleName/2017_06_14_Response_to_governance_review

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