A cross-party committee of MPs has recommended the RSPCA should be stripped of its powers to prosecute animal cruelty and welfare cases in England and Wales.

RSPCAThe Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRACom) said there was a “conflict of interest” in the charity’s role in bringing private prosecutions, as well as investigating cases, campaigning and fund-raising.

Instead, EFRACom members want the country’s most famous animal charity to continue to investigate alleged animal crimes, but to hand their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether or not to prosecute.

‘It should step back’

EFRACom chairman Neil Parish MP said: “The RSPCA does important work in 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, 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 CPS to protect the welfare of animals.”

The committee has recommended the maximum penalty is increased to five years. A national animal welfare inspectorate should also be established to liaise and support local authorities in enforcing the licensing regimes for pet breeding and sales, undertaking inspections and dealing with complaints.

Public backing

However, an RSPCA statement reassured supporters it will continue its long history of prosecuting cases of animal abuse and neglect.

RSPCA chief executive Jeremy Cooper said: “We do not agree with the recommendation 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 a higher percentage than the CPS.

“Our research shows 89% of the public back our prosecution work and will be confused why a small number of MPs would suggest stopping the RSPCA carrying out a role we are very good at and is paid for by public donations rather than taxes.

“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.”

  • Further reaction from the BVA and animal welfare organisations can be found in the 28 November issue of Veterinary Times.
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