Vets will be required to attend all RSPCA actions to seize suspected abused animals and will no longer be able to provide a certification of suffering by telephone.

RSPCA inspector
New measures agreed by the RSPCA mean vets will no longer be able to provide a certification of suffering by telephone and will have to attend all of the charity’s actions to seize suspected abused animals. Image: RSPCA.

The measure was agreed by the RSPCA in its written response to an independent review of the charity’s prosecution activity, conducted by former chief inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Stephen Wooler.

The review, published in October 2014, listed 33 recommendations suggesting how the RSPCA could change its processes to bring enforcement work more in-line with 21st century expectations and maintain confidence.

Evidence gathering

With regard to the gathering and presentation of veterinary evidence, the charity has agreed vets should only be asked to sign a Section 18 Animal Welfare Act certificate (which enables police to seize an animal or alleviate its suffering) when they can personally verify the facts. Updated guidance has been given to the charity’s inspectorate to ensure compliance.

Further Wooler recommendations will be addressed by:

  • relying on the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “suffering” for court proceedings
  • agreeing and implementing a new expert witness policy
  • including a suggested common standard for body condition scoring in guidance for veterinarians

An RSPCA spokesman said: “The aim of any guidance should, we would hope, make vets feel more confident in dealing with difficult animal welfare situations and in performing this part of professional veterinary work.”

Stronger relationships

In an effort to “improve transparency and harmonise how the society delivers veterinary evidence to the courts”, the RSPCA has also established a non-exclusive panel of vets using RCVS accreditation – an approach the charity hopes will strengthen relationships with the veterinary profession, speed up case progression and reduce costs.

Further, the chief veterinary officer’s duties now encompass an advisory role to the inspectorate and prosecutions department on veterinary issues in prosecutions to provide a veterinary oversight within the RPSCA.

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