Like most people, I’m an animal lover. I love how they bring so much joy to people and can be some people’s relief in really dire circumstances.
Of course, the flip side to this is that there are some people who treat animals abysmally. When this happens, I had always thought the RSPCA swung into action and removed the animal. Until a chain of events a few years ago, which planted a seed of doubt about just how effective they actually are and the state of animal welfare in this country. During this last week, all my worst suspicions about the RSPCA have been confirmed.
After having dropped my children off at school a few years ago, I returned home to find an injured young bird on our driveway. My biggest cat was already circling, so I shooed him indoors and tried to get the bird into a pet carrier. As with these things, the bird proved incredibly had to capture. Eventually, it disappeared behind a neighbours tree. I phoned the RSCPA to ask if someone would come and retrieve it, I definitely didn’t want it being ripped apart unnecessarily by the local cats. The woman on the other end of the call was vague, dismissive and just generally uninterested. She told me if it was still there in a few hours to call back and they’d get someone to come over. A few hours later, the bird was now obviously in some distress, calling out and really dragging its wing. Further attempts to capture it were completely futile, and so I rang again. No answer. I rang again. Still no answer. When I finally managed to get through, I was told there was nothing they could do, they had no officer in the area and we should just let it die.
Not long after this, we lost one of our three cats. Like most people grieving a lost animal, we said we wouldn’t replace her but invariably you start to idly look for a new animal to love. It was whilst I was researching rescuing a cat that I came across a local sanctuary called Capricorn. Local rescues had not really been on my radar either, to be honest. I knew of the big ones, but not small local ones. Of course in this day and age of social media, I joined their Facebook page. It became evident very quickly that this rescue also had serious problems with professionalism and their own treatment of animals. The RSPCA were informed of the problems and launched an investigation. Officers visited the rescue and deemed it satisfactory for animals to remain there. Now anyone living in Wales will have seen that they were part of a BBC undercover investigation. You can find it here if you are interested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmaasyjDzTM.
Two years later, amongst numerous allegations of financial misconduct, sick animals and goodness knows what else they were finally shut down. During those two years, there were countless reports of dogs being put down needlessly, kittens being re-homed and then found to be incredibly poorly. So why did it take 2 years and so much animal suffering?
Then in the last week, there has been the case of Gary. Gary is a pony, who appeared tied up in a local shopping park. At some point, after people had gathered to express concern regarding the pony’s welfare someone turned up to tie him to a trap. Unfortunately, the pony collapsed, and as you can imagine there was a public outcry. You may have seen the distressing video on Facebook. The local police, a vet and the RSPCA all attended the scene. Despite the fact, the pony had collapsed, was obviously malnourished and had a gash on its head, sores around its mouth it was still left with its owners. I and many others could not understand the rationale behind that decision. I have included a link here, but please be aware it is a very distressing watch.
This led me to do a bit of reading up on the RSPCA. As I have stated previously, I had always thought they were the knights in shining armour of the animal protection world. The reality is very different, in many ways they have no more power than you or I. To prosecute someone for neglect is a long and winding road, where they have to carefully and diligently build a case file which can take months, even years. They cannot seize a neglected animal, all animals have to be handed over willingly by the owners. In most cases, they can only advise on how to improve the animal’s situation. Which of course people are free to ignore.
I am incredulous that in 2019 when we have grown so much in our awareness and acceptance of ourselves, that our attitude towards animals remains stuck somewhere in the dark ages. Animals deserve the same safeguarding legislation as we are afforded, the RSPCA absolutely SHOULD have the power to seize animals immediately that they deem at risk. With an alleged budget of £140 million a year, the UK’s leading animal charity should be doing better. Much better. An internet search will tell you that the charity seems bogged down in organisational problems, and have been accused of some less than honourable things themselves. Their focus, unfortunately, seems to have moved away from animals and onto profit. They are the Royal Society for the “prevention of cruelty to animals” and yet how can they prevent animal cruelty if they have no legal, enforceable powers?
With a UK population of upwards 20 million pets, surely they all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect? They are after all sentient beings in the same way humans are, and as such should have an organisation that is fit for purpose ensuring a safe and happy life. Equally, people should have somewhere they can report abuse or concerns and will be heard. In the future, I will be investing much more in local rescues, who I believe do the best they can in difficult circumstances. Any decent animal owner will tell you, that pets require time and money and often small rescues are stretched with these resources.
If Gary’s plight has touched you, please do consider supporting the charity who is taking care of him. Ark Angels really do have the best interests of the animals at heart. For the sake of transparency, I am not affiliated to the charity in any way. However, I do have a friend who volunteers and does re-homing visits. If not, and you are in a position to, please look up your local animal rescue, and see if you can volunteer, donate food or money to help out.