So, the RSPCA is quietly killing nearly half the animals it “rescues”. This is partly because it cannot find homes for them. Last year’s grisly toll, according to the Mail on Sunday, amounts to more than 53,000 animals. Several thousand of these were healthy.

In response, the charity has been energetically flinging mud at the whistle- lower who alerted the media. The RSPCA dismisses her allegations as the ranting of a disgruntled former employee who left during unresolved disciplinary issues. Yet the bare facts are uncontested. It’s not a new story — similar figures have been published before. What is new is the media coverage and the context.

The same outfit that blew nearly a third of a million pounds on a politically motivated legal stunt against the Heythrop Hunt, while at the same time closing centres and laying off staff because of a claimed lack of money, kills thousands of healthy pets because it doesn’t have the resources to find homes for them. How’s that for “giving animals a voice”?

Of course, the RSPCA has no real option but to put down healthy domestic pets if it cannot find homes for them. We all know that — even if many prefer not to think about such realities. But why hasn’t the charity devoted a greater share of its resources to rehoming? Why hasn’t it done more to deal with the issues that have led to a glut of unwanted pets?

Economical with the truth

On even the most favourable interpretation, the RSPCA stands accused of being economical with the truth. Whatever the necessity, the fact that it is killing truckloads of healthy pets has come as a shock to many members and donors. The RSPCA deserves to carry the can for not keeping those good folk properly informed, while at the same time milking them for every penny it could. But then, that’s par for the course for the RSPCA.

The way that one of the UK’s most high-profile registered charities seems to glide though the strictures of the Charity Commission never ceases to amaze me. I repeatedly asked it precisely how much the RSPCA had spent on political campaigning against fox hunting in the run-up to the ban. The charity refused to provide the figure, hiding it within a more general category. Astonishingly, the Charity Commission refused to intervene. I have been involved with many charities, yet I have never seen another that seems to enjoy a similar special relationship with the Charity Commission. Are some charities simply too big to be held to account?

Most of the RSPCA’s frontline staff carry out really good animal welfare work. The sort of work that falls within its remit as a registered charity, allowing the RSPCA all sorts of lucrative tax breaks. If there is any real possibility that a registered charity is abusing its privileged status, then the Charity Commission should investigate. It should not wait for a formal complaint, or newspaper headlines. A lot of people give hard-earned money to the RSPCA. They deserve transparency. They trust the Charity Commission to do its job properly, without fear or favour.

The RSPCA is notorious, in some circles, for being excessively litigious when it sniffs an opportunity for making money and headlines. I have been told of an instance when a rather sad person was prosecuted for an animal welfare offence, based on neglect against a background of tragic personal circumstances. The RSPCA is said to have deliberately inflated the number of individual offences in this case by legal trickery. Then it smoothly asked an unquestioning court for vastly larger expenses than would otherwise have been justified. The plight of the animals, it is alleged, was just a means to an end in this particular case. Is this sort of exercise being replicated in local courts up and down the country?

It is high time that the RSPCA was properly investigated by the Charity Commission. Apart from anything else, the animals deserve a voice — don’t they?

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