Veterinarian Ms Jacqui Paterson tipped off the RSPCA about a cat sanctuary run by Sarah Mellanby. I have to presume that the tipoff was that the sanctuary was badly run and that the RSPCA needed to raid it and seize the cats. On the face of it this was a case of a cat rescue that had turned into cat hoarding and the RSPCA had to step in, in the interests of the cat welfare.
But it was not quite as straightforward as that. There was a connection between the RSPCA and the veterinarian concerned. The veterinarian’s practice manager had early moved from her veterinary practice to become an RSPCA inspector. Therefore there was an open channel of communication between the veterinarian and the RSPCA.
Once the RSPCA had been notified by veterinarian Ms Patterson, the cats were seized and in effect the sanctuary was shut down. Of course at that stage the cats needed to be checked over by a veterinarian and treated if required. Ms Patterson was the vet who did the work and she charged the RSPCA £42,930. In addition she charged £11,724 for her time in giving evidence at subsequent court proceedings.
Therefore, the veterinarian made a substantial income out of tipping off the RSPCA about this so-called mismanaged cat sanctuary. But the sanctuary wasn’t that bad as I read the story.
Mrs Mellanby vigorously denies the allegations against that her sanctuary was poorly run and that the cats in her care were in need of medical treatment due to neglect. In fact, she is appealing a decision of the Magistrate’s Court, so convinced is she that she is correct in her assessment.
Mrs Mellanby said that she was tricked out of handing over cats to the RSPCA. She says she was told that they will be returned the following day.
Thirty-seven cats have subsequently been re-homed (19 are at another shelter) and Mrs Mellanby has been ordered to pay court costs of £50,000. In addition, she has been banned from keeping cats for 10 years. Her costs are climbing and she may have to sell her home. Her life is messed up.
The real point of this story is not whether the sanctuary was badly managed or whether Mrs Mellanby was a cat hoarder or not. The point is that the veterinarian made a very large sum of money out of reporting the sanctuary to the RSPCA. This, it is argued (and I would agree) is a potential conflict of interest.
The motivation to report the sanctuary was quite possibly to make money rather than a concern for the welfare of the cats or at least the welfare of the cats was a secondary concern. This is an interesting aspect of cat seizures from sanctuaries. There is money to be made out of unfortunate circumstances and cats in ill health. The fact that she did charge over £40,000 does indicate, one has to admit, that the cats did require treatment. However, we don’t know whether the fees were inflated and we don’t have details about the condition of the cats. I have a feeling that the cats were in not in as poor a condition as stated by the RSPCA.
For all we know, there may have been an underhand agreement between the manager at the RSPCA and the veterinarian in question which allows both of them to profit from seizures of large numbers of cat. I’m not saying that’s the case. I am just suggesting that it might be the case. Also there may have been a vendetta by the RSPCA against the sanctuary owner because, as an interesting aside, Mrs Mellanby used to work at the RSPCA and she left them because she was sick of the way animals are routinely put to sleep by the RSPCA. Her sanctuary was a no-kill rescue centre. She was critical of the RSPCA.
Perhaps the RSPCA wanted to shut her up and the vet wanted a sharp increase in income at the same time. I am being somewhat cynical but you get that way in time.
One of the cats from the sanctuary was kept by the vet and subsequently killed by a dog at her surgery. Make of that snippet of info what you will.
Source: Daily Mail newspaper – hard copy version.