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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 2011But charity's prosecutions of rogue pet owners leap 20 per centCountryside Alliance says charity should lose right to call itself Royal
22:08 GMT, 29 December 2012
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.
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)
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 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 (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
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.
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.
COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE: 'CHARITY SHOULD LOSE RIGHT TO CALL ITSELF ROYAL'
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
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
‘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.’