The RSPCA recently announced their plan to step back from prosecutions and passing on the evidence of their investigations to the Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS), much as the Scottish SPCA does. However the SSPCA has something the RSPCA lacks – statutory powers.
Now, the RSPCA is aiming to achieve statutory powers in England and Wales for RSPCA inspectors. As things stand, the RSPCA have no powers of entry to homes, gardens, land or vehicles, unless accompanying police on a court warrant. The process of turning to the police so that they can go to court and get a warrant can take days, which the RSPCA says is “a long time to wait” when they know an animal on the property is suffering.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said that statutory powers would enable the RSPCA inspectors to “reach animals in need more quickly, allowing them to access private land and outbuildings, although crucially not homes, if there was a reasonable expectation that an animal was suffering”.
He argued it would also “reduce pressure on the police at a time when their resources are stretched”.
However, critics of the charity argue against the idea, as they are concerned statutory powers may be misused. One well-known, controversial case is that of Claude, an elderly cat seized from his family home and later put to sleep without their owners’ consent. The decision was made due to poor health, the RSPCA maintains. Charges brought against Claude’s owner were overruled by the CPS, and the charity later publicly apologised.
If this could happen without statutory powers, critics argue, much worse can happen if the RSPCA achieves the powers to enter private gardens and outbuildings without being accompanied by police. Others say that some oversights cannot compare with the thousands of very real cases of animal cruelty taking place across the UK every year, and that statutory powers would allow the RSPCA to intervene quickly and save lives.
What do you think – should the RSPCA be granted statutory powers? Tell us what you think in the comments, in the dedicated Facebook thread, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Great Debate” in the subject headline.