Channel 4 News Exclusive: RSPCA to turn away unwanted animals

This story broke last week but very interesting, controversial, and well-worth a read.

It suggests that the RSPCA will only take properly abused animals and not just unwanted ones. So basically if you want to successfully rehome your pet you have to be cruel to it first – bit ironic?

Furthermore, I watched an episode of Animal Rescue Live the other morning, and an RSPCA inspector was called to a house in Carmarthenshire because a dog had been left home alone and was showing obvious signs of distress, i.e. barking alot.

Now any animal-lover in touch with the real world will tell you that while he was busy giving the owner of this dog (which for the record seemed healthy, bright and a good weight) a caution, he was actually surrounded by hundreds of thousands of abused bitches, suffering stud dogs and of course poorly pups in Carmarthenshire’s now infamous puppy farms – most of them underfed, diseased, and non-socialized.

If you’re going to close your doors on unwanted pets and concentrate on ‘policing’ then prove it. Put an end to puppy farming and stop trying to grab the headlines with cases like prosecuting an old woman for over-feeding her Labrador with treats and kindness.

Surely after the whole kerfuffle with those poor German Shepherds last year the RSPCA should be doing everything in its (rather wealthy) powers to improve its image rather than further tarnish it?

I feel genuinely sorry for the RSPCA’s regional branches who are denied access to the central ‘pot’ and left to do their own fundraising, but at the same time applaud the larger charities like Dogs Trust and The Mayhew Animal Home for being in it totally for the animals and proud of their strict no-kill policies.

(Channel 4 News) The RSPCA is to begin turning away people who bring in stray or unwanted animals, according to a leaked package of documents obtained by Channel 4 News.

Many of the 75,000 unwanted animals which are taken to RSPCA centres each year across England and Wales could be affected.

This comes after the RSPCA itself complained that the number of abandoned animals is soaring as a result of recession.

The leaked internal documents disclose that from 4 May, 17 animal centres run by the RSPCA’s national body should begin turning away people who come to them with unwanted animals. The hope is that the 40 centres run by the charity’s branches across England and Wales will follow suit.

Animals that have been “RSPCA generated” – those which have been seized in cruelty or animal protection cases or at immediate risk – will be the only animals taken in after that date.

Pets that belong to people taken into hospital, evicted from their homes, or unwanted or stray animals, will now be turned away. Unless the animal is at immediate risk, the unfortunate visitor holding the animal will be told to contact the police, the council or a vet.

RSPCA staff are being issued with a one-line script to tell the public that the most pressing need of RSPCA animal centres is to care for abused and damaged pets rescued by its officers from neglect or cruelty. They must also make sure they have room for the animals, while “offering advice” to owners of unwanted pets who come to them for help.

The documents say the move will allow the RSPCA to become more efficient, by reducing the need for the organisation to pay to house animals in private boarding facilities.

The RSPCA had an income of £119 million in 2008 and is Britain’s eighth largest charity. This latest move is part of its £54 million savings scheme over three years, after donations fell during the recession.

The RSPCA investigated 140,575 cases in 2008. That is up from 110,841 three years earlier. It spent £11.1 million on prosecutions in 2008, compared with £7 million in 2007.

The rise is in part the result of the Animal Welfare Act, which came into effect in 2007 and which was strongly supported by the RSPCA, which introduced new offences of failures in animal welfare, rather than just cruelty.

The move is controversial because it signals a move away from the charity’s role in animal welfare to concentrate instead on policing animal cruelty.

Some vets warn that if the RSPCA turns away unwanted animals, it could result in more pets being abandoned.

The British Veterinary Association President-elect, Harvey Locke said: “I think the concern is that more unwanted pets may be left to fend for themselves, that people will just leave them on the streets or turf them out of their cars on the motorway. I would like to think that that would not happen but that is a risk.

“We need to look at the cause of this. Why are more and more dogs and cats, and exotic pets as well, being taken on by people and then disposed of because they’re unwanted?”

RSPCA Chief Superintendant Tim Wass rejected suggestions the policy would lead to more animals being illegally abandoned.

He said: “We will not let that happen. If there is any evidence of that we will be the first to see it and if anything like that happens we will re-focus. We will in each and every case make sure that animals’ welfare is protected.

“Like any organisation at the moment we have to answer some difficult economic challenges. RSPCA has always prioritised which animals it takes in. We are looking to formalise that…and to make sure that our finite resources go to the animals that need them most.

“It is not simply turning people away. We will still be taking animals in from the public where we perceive that there is a risk to those animals’ welfare.”

Mr Wass conceded that the move would put extra pressure on smaller animal charities but said charities could not be expected to deal with the issue of unwanted pets and there was a need for new measures to prevent the problem.

He added: “Owners have to accept responsibility and that starts when they decide to take on the pet in the first place.”

The potential burden of tens of thousands of unwanted animals, many of which will now be turned away by the RSPCA, will now fall on smaller charities devoted to particular animals such as Dogs Trust and Cats Protection, as well as smaller rescue centres such as the Mayhew Animal Home and Celia Hammond Trust in London.

The RSPCA’s 169 local branches are independent of the national charity. Angela Walder, Chairwoman of the RSPCA branch in Isle of Sheppey, Kent, and a member of the charity’s governing Council, said some branches may ignore the new policy.

She said: “I think what the national society is doing with this policy is trying to reduce the number of just animals people don’t want any more, for various reasons, coming in to us in order to make sure we’ve got spaces for the other at-risk animals.

“But I think, when it comes to the branches, they will do what they’ve always done which is take in as many animals as they can.”

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4 replies

  1. I understand that the RSPCA has to have priorities, but I think they’re putting far more faith in people than is really warranted. It recently became illegal to slaughter horses for dog meat in America, so people just started abandoning horses in the state parks because they couldn’t take care of them and couldn’t sell them. Horses are a pretty big thing to dump, cats and dogs are even easier.

    Donald from Mallenders in Horses

  2. Well said. Labrador Lifeline is already getting the extra burden from up and down the country. A nation of animal lovers – |I don’t think so and the RSPCA have lost all credibility. The reason they don’t get the donations in is because they squander the money on posh offices, big salaries, vehicles, uniforms, arguing over legacies and captive bolt guns!

  3. I believe the RSPCA are currently breaking the Advertising Standards law with their ads on TV. They talk about needing funds for the Big Rescue. But they haven’t taken strays for at least two years! My own grandaughter was told to take the stray cat she’d found ”Back to where you found it and leave it there”. They will tell you that stray dogs are a council problem. So what exactly are they rescuing? On Animals 24/7 recently, the RSPCA had ‘successfully prosecuted an old lady whose cats had fleas’.
    The further deception is the Home for Life, where the RSPCA ‘will do their best to find your pet a loving home if you die’…but not if your pet is elderly, ill or has behavioural problems. In those cases it will follow you into the afterlife!!
    The RSPCA have lost all credibility as a charity, because they are hell bent on becoming the Pet Police!

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