The RSPCA has vowed to continue prosecuting animal abuse cases after a committee of MPs recommended it stop.
Neil Parish, who chairs the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said he was not convinced the RSPCA “is in a better position than the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when it comes to prosecuting animal welfare cases”.
The RSPCA said it would consider the committee’s report but pointed to its 92% success rate - “which is currently a higher percentage than the CPS”.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, PDSA, Redwings and World Horse Welfare all voiced their support for the leading animal welfare charity.
Parish said: “The RSPCA does important working investigating animal welfare cases. And I would like to see its dedicated and professional staff continue that vital work.
“The committee is not convinced, however, that the RSPCA is in a better position than the CPS when it comes to prosecuting animal welfare cases.
“It should step back from making prosecutions itself, continuing instead to work closely with the police and prosecution service to protect the welfare of animals.”
While the RSPCA agreed with some of the recommendations in the committee’s report, such as increasing the maximum penalty for animal abuse to five years, it defended its prosecution record.
Jeremy Cooper, RSPCA chief executive, said: “Overall this is a very sensible report with lots of progressive measures to improve animal welfare.
“We do not agree with the recommendation that the RSPCA should no longer prosecute.
“We are extremely proud of our near 200 years of experience investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and our 92% success rate - which is currently a higher percentage than the CPS.
“Our research shows that 89% of the general public back our prosecutions work and they will be confused why a small number of MPs would suggest stopping the RSPCA carrying out a role which we are very good at and which is paid for by public donations rather than out of taxes.”
He continued: “This recommendation is not supported by the government, vets, other major animal welfare charities, and local authorities, and flies in the face of the majority of evidence put before the committee.
“We will consider this report carefully while we will continue to prosecute those who starve, beat, stab, burn and abuse animals. For us the key test will be if the recommendation improves animal welfare and we suspect the answer in this case would probably be no.”
Last year the RSPCA investigated 143,004 animal cruelty complaints, including 81,146 cruelty incidents against dogs, 33,844 against cats and 15,965 incidents against horses.
A joint statement from Battersea, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust and PDSA read: “We would strongly question whether any other body currently exists that would have the resources to provide a service similar to the RSPCA’s considerable expertise, experience and credibility in this area.
“We would further fear that without the RSPCA carrying out this vital work, many cases of unacceptable animal abuse would go unprosecuted.”
The report also addressed the issue of puppy breeding.
Recommendations in the report:
- Ban third party sale of dogs. Dogs should only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations.
- Set out a timetable for the secondary legislation that was foreseen ten years ago in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
- Update legislation governing the breeding of dogs with a licensing regime based on modern welfare standard.
- Require anyone breeding two litters or more per year to be licensed as a breeder;
- Pass regulations to protect the genetic viability and welfare of offspring as well as adult dogs.
- Make it compulsory that all internet pet advertisements should include the registration or licence number of the seller.
- Make the Pet Advertising Advisory Group’s minimum standards mandatory for all websites where pets are advertised and sold.
- Increase the age at which dogs are allowed to enter the United Kingdom under the Pet Travel Scheme to six months.
The committee said that a national animal welfare inspectorate should be established to liaise and support local authorities in enforcing the licensing regimes for pet breeding and sales, undertaking inspections and dealing with complaints.
Parish said: “The UK is a nation of pet lovers. One in two households owns a pet amounting to well over twenty million pets, including 8.5 million dogs and 7.5 million cats. Supplying this demand can be a very lucrative business.
“There are many good, responsible breeders of dogs and cats in the UK. Sadly some unscrupulous breeders and pet dealers care more about lining their pockets than they do about looking after the welfare of animals.
“It is all too easy for an unknowing member of the public to buy a puppy from the plethora of unlicensed or illegal sellers.
“The process must be licensed and regulated, making the industry more transparent and ensuring that animals can be traced back to their breeders.
“Puppies should not be able to be bought via pet shops.
“We need up to date laws and an enforcement regime that ensure that the welfare of animals is not an afterthought.”