Belfast Telegraph

RSPCA is not power-mad, it's simply trying to stop cruelty

By Grace Dent

We appear set for another bout of anti-RSPCA braying in response to the story of the 16-year-old cat Claude, who was removed from the Byrnes family in Hertfordshire by an inspector and euthanised because of alleged ill-treatment.

Poor Claude the cat. Killed unthinkingly for having slightly scraggy hair. That's the headline anyway. The RSPCA is full of draconian, power-mad control freaks, isn't it?

And the Byrnes loved Claude so much. Sure, their beloved pet was actually in a disgusting state of non-life, according to the RSPCA – body score "0", the thinnest an animal can be.

Still, the family insist that a post-mortem examination bears out the fact their pet was in good health. "They didn't let our kids say goodbye," Mr Byrne mused.

The RSPCA defended itself by saying that the family was given 24 hours to pop in and wish the cat farewell, though the Bryne family claim the charity wouldn't even wait until the kids came home from school.

This is mainly a he-said, she-said tale with added whiskers, but where the story gains momentum is in the decision of the RSPCA to attempt to prosecute the Byrnes family, a move which the Crown Prosecution Service subsequently rejected.

Several people view this as a well-deserved kick in the teeth for the animal charity which, they would say, has got far too big for its boots.

The image problem that the RSPCA suffers from, to my mind, stems from the fact that it is determined to use its brilliantly collected charity funds to turn the power of the law against men and women who hurt animals – especially foxes.

Because of these anti-fox-hunting activities, I hear frequently that the RSPCA is increasingly "political", that it prosecutes fatuously and gets involved in things it has no business in.

At this point one could suggest that, if you want to stop the RSPCA yanking your chain about illegally harming animals, then you should stop harming the animals.

But the problem with the fox-hunting aficionados, much like those who dog-fight, or wallop a horse with a whip to make it win a race, is that they see their form of lawbreaking as lucrative, rightful and fun.

Moving back to the tale of poor very much loved Claude (RIP), who was snatched and executed by the RSPCA for having an insignificant fur tat near his right ear – and I may as well embellish this tale – while ghoulish inspectors in Grim Reaper capes banged drums of doom and weeping children hid in their mothers' skirts, the problem with our response to it is that a good number of people start to entertain the notion that the RSPCA has "too much power".

As an animal-lover sickened on a daily basis by news of animal mistreatment, this feels like utter rot. I'm a firm believer the RSPCA should have more power.

More strength to punish the thousands of idiots who purchase puppies each year before mistreating and abandoning them. More brute force to prosecute people who hoard animals or leave horses outdoors in all weathers, or import tropical creatures to live miserably and die, or steal people's pets to use as fighting "bait", or simply get bored with their pet so move house and leave it to starve to death.

The RSPCA, in very much the same manner as the police, has become an emergency service that it is fashionable to claim to mistrust and lack faith in, until the very moment one needs it – when suddenly they're the first people to call.

Anyone who thinks this charity has too much power cares very little for those with four paws.

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