RSPCA publicly apologises for wrongly killing a domestic cat

Clause wrongly euthanised by the RSPCA
Clause wrongly euthanised by the RSPCA. Photo: RSPCA
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UK — You may remember the RSPCA case of Claude, a long-haired Turkish Angora cat living in Britain who was very old with matted fur. He does look bad in the photo, admittedly, but it was not within the remit of the RSPCA to decide to euthanize him. The RSPCA is a rich animal charity and we’re told that they euthanise 50% of the animals they rescue.

Claude’s owner’s neighbour complained to the RSPCA about the cat’s condition and the RSPCA came out and heavy-handedly insisted that he was euthanised. They made threats and seized the cat on the basis that the cat was being mistreated. Claude was euthanised, totally unnecessarily, and following his death the RSPCA prosecuted Claude’s owners through the criminal courts under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for animal cruelty. A big and unpleasant mistake.

The prosecution was stopped by the Crown Prosecution Service, thankfully.

This is an update to state that the RSPCA has issued an unprecedented public apology about killing Claude simply because he had long matted hair and was thin because he was old (it was impossible to remove his mats apparently).

The RSPCA’s rather shocking admission of their failure encourages people such as myself to conclude that they are perhaps not fit to instigate criminal proceedings against people that they think are being cruel to their animals. They’re appear to be unable to make a proper judgement as to whether a person should be prosecuted or not in the criminal courts. There are calls by some people that the unique rights of the RSPCA, a charity, to begin criminal prosecutions against people should be stopped.

The RSPCA admitted that it had behaved in a “disproportionate and insensitive” way. Their admission, incidentally, follows shortly after a government report that the government should take over the job of appointing RSPCA’s inspectors. It would appear that the inspector in the Claude case made serious errors of judgement.

What is rather shocking about Claude’s death is that he was euthanized without the opportunity of the family’s children to say their goodbyes. Claude was owned by Richard and Samantha Byrnes.

The RSPCA acknowledged that the way in which they intervened in taking Claude from his home together with the treatment of Mr Mrs Byrnes fell short of the standards of compassion the public are entitled to expect of the RSPCA.

“Specifically, the RSPCA accept that its decision not to defer euthanasia so that Mr and Mrs Byrnes’s children could say goodbye to the pet cat that they had no known their entire lives caused great and unnecessary distress to the whole family.”

Mr Byrnes said that..

“it has been an extremely difficult and time-consuming process to, in effect, drag the RSPCA to this point but nonetheless clearly my family is vindicated.”

Mt Byrnes was shocked at the continuing attacks by the RSPCA after the commencement of the criminal proceedings. Mr Byrnes wants the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to be put in charge of enforcing animal welfare law rather than the RSPCA which is a private charity.

The RSPCA admit that they made a number of unfortunate errors and also regret their continued attacks upon the family after the prosecution had been terminated by the Crown Prosecution Service.

This is the second prominent case in 6 months were the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue RSPCA prosecutions. In another case an autistic lady, Julie Nadian was hounded by the RSPCA and 3 cats seized when she refused to have one of them put down. At the end of the day, Julie was also totally vindicated.

It is perhaps widely recognised or at least accepted by many people that the RSPCA have lost their way in instigating unsuitable criminal prosecutions and in some cases commenced for the sake of publicity without a proper regard for the consequences and has diverged from their true mission which is to assist animals in need and promote animal welfare.

14 thoughts on “RSPCA publicly apologises for wrongly killing a domestic cat”

  1. I’m pleased that they actually made a public apology. This is rare for them and hopefully a step towards a better relationship with the public.

    I think the RSPCA’s primary role these days is to prosecute cases of animal cruelty, rather than re-homing cats. Although in this instance, they should have not behaved in the manner they did, I imagine it must be horrendously frustrating when genuine cases of animal cruelty receive so little justice in the courts. I’m sick of people getting off with little more than a slap on the wrist for torturing and killing animals.

    Personally I would be wary of removing powers from the RSPCA and handing them over to government or public officials. Many of them have even less interest in animal welfare. I’d also be very concerned about how strongly the hunting with dogs ban would be enforced if the RSPCA didn’t continue with prosecutions.

  2. While the Pet Welfare Law has good points it’s not so good that animals can be seized and PTS by the RSPCA when they could instead educate the owner as to how to care for him/her better.
    It seems to be about PR for them, look everyone we are doing our job! But they are not, trying to get through to report a neglected animal is a nightmare, then there are 20 questions which make the person feel they are in the wrong for phoning in. A few months back here someone was concerned about some dogs, asked would the RSPCA come and check on them? No, it meant a phone call to Environmental Health who would come out and see if the RSPCA needed to come! Crazy!

    • I agree Ruth. What I expect is for the RSPCA to come out if we believe an animal needs help and we can’t do it ourselves. On 2 occasions for me they have failed in that regard. They have gone off course as far as I am concerned.

  3. Such a sad story, that poor cat was in a state but could have been sorted out without the RSPCA shoving their way in and seizing him and killing him, in actual fact the neighbour was lucky to get someone to respond, the RSPCA normally don’t want to know or help in the plight of neglected animals. The victim and the loser here was the poor cat, he’s the only one I feel sorry for.

    • Now that is a good point Babz. Normally (based on my experience) it is hard to get the RSPCA to turn up! Perhaps in this case they started off with the idea of turning this into a publicised example of cat abuse. The mentality at that time was to use criminal prosecutions as a means to prevent animal cruelty. It was a bad policy which has back-fired and I believe it has been changed.


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