Monday, 29 December 2008


An RSPCA inspector is to examine the images, taken by a photographer at Sandringham, Norfolk, on Saturday, to determine whether the animals were subjected to "unnecessary suffering".
Buckingham Palace insisted that the Prince was simply trying to break up a fight between the two labradors and said that the pictures do not show definitively whether he actually struck them.
But animal rights groups condemned his behaviour as "sickening" and "cowardly".
The photographs show the Prince approaching the two dogs waving a long crook as they grapple over a dead pheasant.
One picture shows one of the animals cowering to one side as he swings the stick over his shoulder.
In another, it hovers above the spine of one of the dogs but is not shown making contact.
Onlookers said he appeared to take three swipes at one of the dogs while shooting in a field with his nephew Peter Phillips.
It is not illegal to hit a dog with a stick if it is to save it from some danger but the Prince could be prosecuted if it can be shown that he beat them unnecessarily.
Magistrates can impose fines of up to £20,000 or six months in prison for extreme cases of animal cruelty.
If found guilty, the Prince could also be banned from keeping animals and receive a criminal record.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said an investigation was not under way but declined to rule one out.
"We need to look at the photographs and my colleague the inspector will consider whether it is appropriate to take action," she said.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman added: "It has not been determined that he did strike the dog."
The Prince was criticised by animal rights groups three years ago for dispatching an injured pigeon with his walking stick.
Two years ago his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, was also at the centre of an animal cruelty row when a fox was clubbed to death with a flagpole during a shoot at Sandringham at which he was present.
And last year police investigated a claim that Prince Harry had killed a pair of rare hen harriers while shooting at Sandringham.
But no carcasses were found and the case was quickly dropped amid fears of a "dirty tricks" campaign.
The Princess Royal became the first member of the Royal Family to receive a criminal conviction in 2002 when she was fined £500 after her bull terrier Dotty attacked two children in Windsor Great Park.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


It would be hard to think of a charity that stirs more controversy than the RSPCA.

Whole websites are dedicated to it, smarting with injustice, bristling fur balls of virtual rage.

The webmasters are not frustrated badger-baiters, dog-eaters or seal-clubbers thirsting for blood. They are animal lovers in the full, mildly eccentric British tradition of enjoying the company of other species rather more than their own, and placing animal welfare at the top of the moral pyramid.

But it’s “welfare” that is the problem. Welfarists believe they have a duty of care to wild, domestic and companion animals, which, crudely put, means treating them kindly.

Against this school of thought stands the rights movement, which rejects human exploitation of animals in all its forms: as meat, pet, workhorse, laboratory tool, racer, fighter, public exhibit, performer or quarry in the hunt. It is towards this school of thought that the RSPCA, amid much well-publicised clamour, has shifted its ground.

This places in the front line every cat- and dog-owner but especially pet shops, a point made clear by the RSPCA in a letter to local authorities in 1999. “The RSPCA,” it said bluntly, “is opposed to the sale of animals in pet shops.” It is this demonisation of the trade, and what critics regard as the harassment of individuals, that has done more than anything to widen the rift.

Any allegation of cruelty by one person against another is likely to result in the appearance of a police lookalike demanding to inspect or even seize their animals. Widespread misunderstanding of the Animal Welfare Act means that many pet-owners do indeed believe RSPCA inspectors have the power to do this.

It is a misapprehension that the organisation finds convenient and which it seems in no hurry to correct. As the spokesman said, “We would prefer you didn’t publish that.”

It is a position that many might applaud. Legal nicety versus relief of animal suffering? It’s a no-brainer. But it’s not always as simple as that. Conflict arises because the police, who do have bona-fide powers of entry, have neither the resources nor the expertise to enforce the act.

For this reason, says Chris Newman, chairman of the Federation of Companion Animal Societies, enforcement defaults to the RSPCA. “They impersonate police officers and commit trespass. People do believe they have powers of entry.”

Nigel Weller, a solicitor based in Lewes who specialises in defending RSPCA prosecutions, puts it more strongly: “In every single case I’ve been involved in, they have abused their power.” Often, he says, the RSPCA ask police to attend, ostensibly to avoid a breach of the peace. “Then they argue it was a police officer, acting legally, who seized property, when in fact it was the RSPCA.”
As RSPCA prosecutions are brought privately and do not require the sanction of the Crown Prosecution Service, this raises issues both of accountability and conflict of interest.
Sally Case, head of prosecutions, insists that RSPCA inspectors are trained specifically to make clear to pet-owners that they have no such right.

They act without an owner’s permission, she says, “only if an animal is suffering in a dire emergency. If the court feels evidence has been wrongly obtained, it can refuse to admit it”.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008



A KIRKBY animal lover has criticised RSPCA officials for not doing more to help prevent the death of an injured deer.

Nicki Hill says the organisation failed to attend Thompson's Veterinary Surgery in Sutton, pictured, despite repeated calls to help the dying animal, which had been hit by a car and left to die on 25th November.

The female deer had been brought to the Carsic Lane surgery by passing motorists with cuts to her left underside of the abdomen and was stabilised by vets.

But the deer had to be put to sleep shortly afterwards, with vet officials and Nicki believing the death could have been prevented if they had received expert advice from the RSPCA.Nicki, who was at the surgery getting treatment for her cat, told Chad: "I rushed to help, along with the vet staff and we were able to calm the deer and managed to get her into the vet's on a crash board and they were able to intravenously get her on a drip."The nurse made several phone calls to get someone to help as they did not have the facility to house a deer nor the full knowledge of how to treat it and were told that someone would be out as an urgent call that evening. "As an organisation which is meant to intervene and prevent any animal cruelty, I am utterly disgusted and disgraced that this beautiful wild animal was allowed to be put to sleep because no-one could be bothered to turn up to move the deer to facilities where it could be looked after."I am distraught that this has happened. We all did our very best for the deer and if the RSPCA had turned up things could have been very different and it might have lived."

But RSPCA spokeswoman Sophie Wilkinson told Chad they had offered advice and the decision lay with the vet.She said: "The surgery spoke to one of our officers and told them the deer was badly injured. In such a circumstance it is highly likely that a deer will have to be put to sleep because they are not good in captivity."The officer also provided details about a wildlife sanctuary in Lincolnshire which might have been able to take the deer.

It is not up to us to decide the treatment."Ultimately the decision rests with the vet because they are offering treatment and are on the scene and best placed to make a decision.""It is advisable that people do not pick up deers injured in the road. It can often cause the animal more distress and is dangerous if the deer begins to come around while in someone's car."We advise people to stay with the animal and to call the police or RSPCA for help.
It is safest for both animal and human."

Monday, 22 December 2008


MORE helpless sheep drowned in floods near Tamworth over the weekend.

Following the deaths of 20 sheep in January this year and the successful rescue of a flock in September, floods struck the banks of the River Tame in Hopwas again on Sunday.

Firefighters from Tamworth were called to rescue the animals at 10.20am near Two Tree Close.
Approximately 100 sheep were stranded in flooded water near to the River Tame Bridge.
RSPCA officers and inspectors were also in attendance.

They advised firefighters not to attempt to rescue the sheep as there was a possibility that some might run from approaching crews into the river and be swept away.

Shortly after crews left they were asked to return at 12.35pm due to reports that one of the sheep was tangled in brambles and had fallen into the river.
Despite working through the afternoon and successfully rescuing 80 sheep, around 20 of them drowned.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "The area has flooded before and it will flood again.
"The inspector has made a complaint to the council because this keeps happening. We can prosecute if we want to."

Saturday, 20 December 2008


TWO pet dogs drowned after being swept into a drainage gulley while out with their owners on a canalside walk.
Lesley Weare and her husband Paul, of Scotland Road in Melksham, were left shocked and angry after losing their dogs, Lady and Kaitlyn, during the torrential downpours on Saturday.
Their pets were swept into a drainage gulley and tunnel running under the Kennet and Avon Canal near The Barge Inn in Seend, by floodwater pouring off nearby fields. They had been on a towpath walk heading towards Bradford on Avon when the tragedy happened.
After realising their pets had been swept away, the distraught couple called police for help and were directed to the RSPCA charity.
But Mrs Weare, 40, and her husband, 41, were unhappy at the charity’s call handler’s response, and were left trying to find the bodies of their dogs alone.
She said: “I ran down the field sobbing to where the tunnel came through the other side.
All I could see were branches and debris and concrete blocking up the exit, the water was so fast.
“In the meantime my husband had rung the police who directed him to the RSPCA and this was where our anger started.
“The woman at the RSPCA told my shaking, freezing cold, distraught husband that if he thought the animals were probably dead then there really wasn’t a lot she could do.”
Shortly after, the couple found the body of their four-year-old springer spaniel Lady before heading to the nearby Barge Inn to see if they could find out who owned the fields next to the towpath to continue the search for Kaitlyn.
Mrs Weare said staff were very helpful and both they and a local farmer offered to go back to the scene the next morning to search for Kaitlyn, the two-year-old offspring of Lady and another of the couple’s dogs, golden retriever Boomer.
They found Kaitlyn’s body at about 8.30am on Sunday.
Mrs Weare said they were furious at the response of the RSPCA.
She said: “I can say now that the RSPCA will never get another penny of my money. Why didn’t they help us when it mattered?”
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “We received a call at 14.25pm from the police passing on a message from a member of the public that two dogs were trapped in a tunnel. No mention was made of water but it was still logged as an emergency.

Friday, 19 December 2008


I have just finished reading Bleak House. My favourite author is Jane Austen (favourite book, Emma – not Pride and Prejudice) and I am afraid I do not enjoy reading Dickens very much. I know his plots are wonderful and his characterisation incredible and appreciate the sections when the story moves forward but there are just too many unnecessary words. I know the reason for the dense, impenetrable and opaque verbiage (you can tell it is having an effect on my own style)but why did he not have the common sense to edit the novels after their publication in the weekly magazines and before they were published as books. Who has ever actually read the opening chapter of A Tale of Two Cities? It is a mountain of language, piled up into an impassable wall of words which quickly becomes not just futile but meaningless and empty. On the other hand, properly and sensitively edited, his work can be fantastic as can be appreciated in the current radio version of A Christmas Carol being read by David Jason on Radio 4.

However, to return to Bleak House, Angela has always said I should not comment on things I know nothing about and while I have usually replied that there is no point at my age of changing the habits of a lifetime, I did agree that I would stop criticising Charles D until I had actually read a complete book. So now I have and I am pleased to have done so although I found much of it very heavy going. But it was particularly interesting because it is his book that focuses most sharply on the workings of the legal system. It seems to me that there is a great deal in the truism that the more things change the more they stay the same. Both Dickens in Little Dorrit and Trollope in The Way We Live Now, write in considerable detail about the irresponsible activities of banks and bankers and it seems to me that great chunks of their plots and characters are still relevant today as evidenced by the current hedge fund scandal in the Untied States.
The law is no exception to these observations and these thoughts passed through my mind as I sat in a Crown Court this week, the activities of which, other than their length, would have done credit to Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the core of the plot of Beak House, in which a case in Chancery goes on for so long that every last penny of a valuable estate being challenged by competing claimants is absorbed by the lawyers so when it is finally resolved there is nothing left.
The case being heard is one in which I have been involved as an expert witness and was an appeal against a very questionable judgement by a Magistrates Court earlier this year in a case brought by the RSPCA.
I should explain at this point that the RSPCA is not one charity but many and while the small locally based organisations do excellent work in caring for and rescuing animals in their region everyone should be aware although they have ‘the name’ they are independent, separate organisations who have to fund themselves and receive nothing (yes – nothing!) from ‘head office’. If you leave money in your will to ‘the RSPCA’ (and most of its income comes from this source) it automatically goes to headquarters at Horsham when you pop your clogs: your local charity (other than the very few shelters which are directly controlled) will not receive a penny. So when I talk about the RSPCA, I am referring to ‘headquarters’ and their income of around £100m a year. Its main preoccupation seems to me just to generate publicity which will keep the charity in the forefront of the minds of people who love animals so that when their solicitor suggests bequests, they are the organisation which comes to mind.

In this case, a man had collected his two ten year old bitches from a kennel - which I have visited and can confirm is one of the best in the UK. One, it is suggested, may have been lethargic and had been off a food for a day or two. Having actually managed kennels I know that most dogs are healthy and behave normally and consequently you remember very little about them and their stay. If a dog is not behaving normally and/or shows signs of sickness you spot them quickly and do something about it. The kennel’s veterinary surgeon gave clear evidence that the kennel tended, if anything, to be over cautious and that if there was ever a problem dogs were taken in straight away and having been established for twenty years the kennel has an unblemished record. The bitches were brought out of the kennel when their owner came to collect them and one was quieter than usual but not showing any symptoms of illness. It’s hind quarters were wet but it was explained that she had apparently and inadvertently fouled herself and been bathed – entirely reasonably.
On his way home, the owner become concerned and told the Court that he had smelled urine. The dog had not urinated in the car (and I personally wonder whether he smelled the remains of disinfectant) and did not urinate at the veterinary surgery when he took the dog to his own vet two hours later. The young veterinary surgeon examined the bitch and diagnosed a likely pyometra for, by the time it arrived on his table there was some puss seeping from the vulva. The bitch was put on a drip and was successfully operated on the following day.

As you will know, a closed pyometra is extremely difficult to diagnose. It develops slowly, usually a few weeks after a season but shows no symptoms until the final few hours when it advances rapidly and can lead to sudden death. Owners have put their pet to bed last thing at night and come down in the morning to find the dog dead or dying having had no indication that anything was wrong other than, perhaps, she was a bit below par on the preceding day.

Given the quality of care at this establishment I am certain that had the bitch remained in the kennels for a few more hours the discharge would have been noticed and she would have been taken to their vet but the owner reported the matter to the RSPCA saying that the kennels had not properly cared for his dog. An inspector interviewed the owner and then turned up at the kennels, unannounced, and took witness statements from the owners and the manager. The kennels owners wanted to co-operate.
They did not realise that the RSPCA inspector had no rights to take statements and, in fact, the procedure was so poorly prepared that they were not acceptable to the Court. However, despite the facts set out above – an unfortunate coincidence in effect – the RSPCA decided to prosecute.
They got their headlines ‘ XXX kennels to be prosecuted by RSPCA’. On both occasions, had the whole process not been so distressing for those involved in the farce, I could almost feel sorry for the Barrister acting for the society. He had no evidence of any substance and spent hours (and I mean hours) repeating questions over and over again trying to get an admission on which he could hang some sort of case. In my evidence I was asked a number of questions about the 1963 Act, about the Model License Condition (which I helped to write) and the Animal Welfare Act. His point was that kennels had a responsibility to take a dog to a vet if it was ill. I agreed – of course they do. Unfortunately they was no evidence that the dog showed any symptoms of illness.
At the Magistrates Court hearing the kennel owners were exonerated but the kennel manager was found guilty by a magistrate sitting alone who during the two day hearing complained of a headache and insisted that she need to go home early.
Even in my layman’s view there was no case to answer and the evidence presented was both insubstantial and unsatisfactory: how she came to her conclusions is a mystery. Fortunately at the appeal, there was a ‘proper’ judge who was patient and fair, had a grasp of relevant evidence (none), was understanding and sympathetic to the distress of the kennel manager, was unbelievably reasonable in allowing what arguments there were to be put across, sensible in his assessment (although, I felt, was clearly frustrated by the determination of the RSPCA’s barrister to drag inconsequential arguments out until they were stretched beyond reason) and came to the conclusion that was blindingly obvious from the start, ruling that there was, in effect, no evidence of any value. He and his colleagues brought in a verdict of not guilty and awarded costs against the society.
In my view, the RSPCA should be ashamed of themselves, not just because of the misery caused by this action against hard working and innocent people but for the inevitable damage the media inflicted on the business by responding to the Society’s publicity machine as well as the waste of the enormous sum of money expended - which had been collected from ordinary people who believed they were contributing to an organisation which would use it to help animals in real distress.
Be assured this is one of many such actions.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Sorry we killed your cow, RSPCA tells Hindus – have another one !
Archbishop of Canterbury helps to heal bitter rift after temple animal is put down
By Jerome TaylorSaturday, 13 December 2008

Gangotri the cow suffered paralysis after a vigorous mating session and was put down
When animal welfare officers walked into the grounds of Watford's Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple on13 December 2007 and put down one of its cows, the local Hindu community was outraged. Gangotri, a 13-year-old blue Jersey cross, was being nursed by temple officials after becoming paralysed during an overly vigorous mating session with Karma Deva, the resident bull. But the officials, from the RSPCA, believed Gangotri was "suffering unnecessarily" and killed her.

The decision caused a bitter rift to develop between Britain's Hindus, who regard cows as sacred, and the RSPCA. But a year on, the two groups have buried the hatchet thanks to a series of high-level talks and a little encouragement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, a patron of the society.
The Independent has learnt that a meeting between temple officials and the RSPCA's chief executive, Mark Watts, took place earlier this week. The society agreed to apologise for upsetting the Hindu community and offered to give a replacement cow to the temple as a goodwill gesture.
Officials from Lambeth Palace yesterday said they played no part in brokering that final meeting but one temple official admitted that progress in the talks only came about once Rowan Williams was contacted. "The Archbishop is a patron of the RSPCA and we wrote to him asking for his help," said Stuart "Shyamsundar" Coyle, the chief herdsman on the temple's farm, which claims to be Europe's largest cow sanctuary.
"The Church of England worked very hard in getting the RSPCA to talk to us about our concerns and we are extremely grateful for their help."
A spokesman from the RSPCA stressed yesterday that its vets had acted within the law when they put Gangotri down but admitted that they had upset the Hindu community in the way it was carried out. "We recognise we offended religious sensibilities," the spokesman said. "We know what happened caused a lot of offence to the Hindu community and we wanted to show that we want to work with Britain's Hindus in the future. The RSPCA has so much in common with Britain's Hindus when it comes to our attitude towards animal welfare."
Kapil Dudaki, who led the temple's "Gangotri Task Force" campaign group, said the donation of a new cow would help calm tensions between Hindus and the RSPCA.
"It is a wonderful gesture and we gladly accept it," he said. "It will very much help repair some of the damage done to our community in the past year. It was the way and the manner in which the RSPCA killed Gangotri which upset our community the most. To see a cow killed on the temple's grounds was utterly devastating."
In Hindu culture and scripture cows are considered sacrosanct. Bhaktivedanta Manor, a community of Hare Krishna devotees that was set up by the Beatles guitarist George Harrison, has a herd of 48 cows, most of which are milked or used to work the land.
Other temples have clashed with the RSPCA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over the care of sick animals. Under the Animal Welfare Act officials can kill an animal if they believe it is suffering unnecessarily. Defra has powers to destroy any animals that have contracted a contagious disease.
But most Hindus believe that killing a cow, even for merciful reasons, is sacrilegious because only God can decide when a sacred animal should die.
Yesterday Defra released a new set of guidelines on how to deal with sacred temple animals without offending the Hindu community. A spokesman from the Hindu Forum of Britain welcomed the new protocol.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008



Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Simon Hart says that this week's ludicrous convictions under the Hunting Act are exactly what we predicted:

A few years ago we produced a series of adverts of ‘ordinary’ hunting people with text asking whether they were “criminals”.

This week saw the strongest evidence yet that our prediction was right. On Tuesday in Kings Lynn Magistrates Court Les Anderson, 80, and Mary Birkbeck, 77, were convicted of a criminal offence under the Hunting Act.

Mr Anderson is Chairman of the Kimberly and Wymondham Greyhound Club and last winter organised two events in December and January on Miss Birkbeck’s farm with her consent. These events were not coursing as Les had known it during the 62 years he had been involved. They were trials held under a set of rules developed with legal advice to fit within the terms of the Hunting Act. The greyhounds were muzzled, the field surrounded by netting to ensure that hares could exit but the greyhounds could not; guns were placed in adjacent fields to shoot hares and three judges were tasked with deciding which dog was most useful in driving hares to the guns.

Not content with simply implementing these rules Mr Anderson also informed the police when events were taking place and sent a copy of the rules to them. The police sergeant who received the rules considered them with the local wildlife officer, and they advised Mr Anderson that they thought the events would be legal.
Meanwhile the animal rights movement had swung into action against these ‘dangerous’ people. The League Against Cruel Sports commissioned Mike Huskisson, an individual with a nasty animal rights past, to “co-ordinate” an operation that also involved professional activists from IFAW as well as the RSPCA.

They staked out the first event, hiding in hedges (as they love to do) with their long lens cameras. The intended dramatic effect however went rather flat when it was revealed that when Michael Butcher of the RSPCA turned up at the second event in January of this year he was invited in, shown what was happening and even given a cup of coffee.

Notwithstanding the welcome he was given, Butcher, having ‘discovered’ who had arranged the event and on whose land it took place, started the process of bringing a private prosecution against them and a third man, Bob Fryer.

The trial, which started on Monday, was in turn both farcical and disturbing. A local policeman, dragged into a case he clearly wanted nothing to do with, denied having approved the clubs plans until his own voice on Mr Anderson’s voicemail was played back to the court.

An RSPCA employee failed to properly administer a caution, which led to all charges against Mr Fryer being dropped. But then there was the unedifying scene of the RSPCA’s barrister cross examining the 80 year old Mr Anderson, who spent two hours in the witness box, on pathetic points of law, as if he was some risk to society.

The District Judge could only rule on the law, stupid though we know it to be, although he does have latitude in sentencing which he made full use of. Instead of a fine he issued Mr Anderson and Miss Birkbeck with a Conditional Discharge, which is judicial shorthand for a mild ticking off.
And whilst the RSPCA tried to recoup the £15,000 of their members money they had spent in bringing the prosecution he ordered that just £2000 should be paid.

“ No-one should have to go through the nonsense that Mr Anderson and Miss Birkbeck did this week.”Of all those involved in this farce the RSPCA has the most questions to answer. Why is a charity which is supposed to focus on animal welfare wasting thousands of pounds dragging elderly people (who even the Judge acknowledged had no criminal intent) through the courts?
The answer from that organisation is, unbelievably, that they “believed it was in the public interest”. If anyone needed any evidence of the nonsense of that statement it was readily available in court. On one side sat the professional animal rights activists. Not a single member of the public supporting them, or the prosecution, attended the trial. On the other side were packed sons, grand-daughters, nephews and friends of the accused. Kings Lynn Magistrates can rarely have seen such a crowd and the case had to be moved to the vacant Crown Court to accommodate them. The feeling in Norfolk was quite clear.
No-one should have to go through the nonsense that Mr Anderson and Miss Birkbeck did this week.

However, they can be proud of the fact that their honesty has made a mockery of this prosecution and provided the clearest illustration yet of why the Hunting Act is on borrowed time and must be repealed.

Monday, 15 December 2008


Appalling behaviour by supposed animal welafre charity as they ignore mums cry for help and then prosecute her for alleged cruelty !

A MOTHER-OF-THREE who caused unnecessary suffering to her pet dog is facing a jail sentence.
Flea-infested collie Julie, had rotting teeth was humanely destroyed to end her misery.
Her owner, Nicola Bayford, 37, was warned that she could be locked up after Chelmsford magistrates saw photographs of the mange-covered dog.

When she appeared before the court on Monday, Bayford, of Witham, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the dog on July 28. She was bailed for probation reports until January 5.
Magistrates imposed an interim order banning her from keeping or having responsibility for animals.
"She put Julie's bad health down to her being 16 years old and was faced with a choice – feed the kids or take the dog to a vet.
"They loved the dog and that it why she put up posters trying to find her," he said.
He said Bayford had asked the RSPCA, PDSA and Blue Cross animal charities for help but was told Witham did not come within their area and she got the same answer from an animal sanctuary.
After the hearing an RSPCA spokeswoman said: "An inspector took the dog to a vet to be put to sleep to end her suffering.
"The normal process would then be to put together a case file with a view to possible prosecution. In this case, because the inspector had a huge workload a file was not put together and the case was investigated by the local authority.
"The RSPCA is often passed information by the local authority and we investigate on their behalf. We are grateful that they were able to help on this occasion."


What really aggravates me about both the story and the above comments is that everyone is blaming Nicky for Neglect of Julie, but no one is picking up on the fact that she did actually ask for help from the PDSA, RSPCA and Blue Cross and they all refused to help her as she was not in their area and none of them gave her contact details of where she could get help in her area isn't this also neglect? Also the fact that the dog was 16 years old would say that it was looked after and loved wouldn't it and also the fact that posters were put up about a missing dog which lead the warden to Nicky, if Nicky neglected and didn't care about the dog would she have done this, and walked the streets to try and find her ? As Leigh said, none of you know Nicky or the family you are only judging on what a 100 or so words say in the paper. As for Charlottes comment, think you are the stupid woman as just because you had a 17 year old dog that looked completely healthy ,doesn't mean that every dog or animal is the same, I have seen plenty of dogs or cats with bad teeth and matted hair o fur and there is nothing wrong with them other than age, humans get wrinkles and aches and pains, and loose there teeth when they get old does that make them neglected? Gwen will reverse the same on you, were you in court for this case, you know Jack too. I am not denying the dog should have been seen by a vet, but again its not as though Nicky didn't try if she had as other people have comment, mistreated, abused or neglected her why would she bother trying to get help to get her seen, which by the way for all those people who have used mistreated and abused get you facts straight and read properly as neither of those words are used in the story, the case is about neglect! Also picking up on what Charlotte said your right about the family, but to the fact of don't you think that if the dog was a bad as what is being made out a member of the family or a friend would have done something about it? I personally don't think that she was left untreated on purpose, and Nicky should not be punished when she so obviously did care for that dog. As Alan said, look at your own lives, and get the facts before judging other peoples.
Sue, Witham

commented on 12-Dec-2008 20:51
Nikki is my sister & what ppl are saying about her is ridiculous. Do not believe what is written in the papers about her as it is not true, the papers always exagarate the truth so pls dont judge her.Nikki is a kind loving caring person & a wonderful mother who wouldnt hurt a fly but due to financial problems when her hubby left made money very tight. Julie was loved by all the family & was looked after as best she could over the 16 years that the family had her. Nikki also worked to help support her family so please dont judge her as none of you know her or the situation apart from what has been written. If any of you out there have a heart then think of what this is doing to her, her children & the family. We all support you Nikki @ this terrible time as we all love you.Thanks to Alan from Shenfield & T.H from Witham for your comments & support x
Emma, Witham

commented on 12-Dec-2008 12:31
Much as I love animals it seems to me that this woman does not deserve prison. She must have been at her wits end as to what to do, with no money, three children and no partner. Just leave her alone all you hysterical Hangers and Floggers out there who have not an ounce of charity among the lot of you. Look at your own lives first before judging her.
Alan, Shenfield

commented on 12-Dec-2008 11:32
I too know Nicky Bayford and her family circumstances. I don't know the full details of what happen to this poor dog only what the papers say and if that's true she should be punished but I dont think prison would be the answer. Nicky has 3 children none of whom have any contact with their father and to jail Nicky would only punish them because like the dog they are victims of a situation not of their making.
T. H., Witham

commented on 11-Dec-2008 18:35
Leigh, Please try to get Miss Bayford to phone The SHG, who help people having problems with the RSPCA, on 0844 700 66 90. You can see their website at Note that from the date of sentencing there is a time limit of 21 days in which to lodge an appeal.
You could also take a look at and
There is quite a lot of controversy over RSPCA prosecutions!
Nick, Birmingham

commented on 11-Dec-2008 09:44
this is a load of crap, i personally know miss bayford and the story printed couldnt be further from the truth, she is a loving, caring person who is incapable of such things. The whole family loved and cherised julie right to the very end, she was well looked after and cared for throught her 16 years, i can gaurentee that julie was not suffering at all and was just like any normal dog. the allegations are ridiculous and untrue, there are many of people out there that are guilty of much worse crimes but its the innocent that get labelled the justice system in this country is disgusting and by this false claim being made lives are being ruined, all i can say is dont judge until you know the REAL story
leigh, manchester

Thursday, 11 December 2008



ANIMAL rescuers had their heads in the clouds yesterday when a concerned postie called for help after spotting what he thought was an owl in distress.
RSPCA officers watched the bird for several hours and were so worried it had not moved they called out the fire brigade.
But on closer inspection it was found to be a fake which phone company BT put on top of the pole, in Cordelia Crescent, Rayleigh, to stop birds perching there.
Carolyn Dyerson, 43, of Cordelia Crescent, said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes. The woman from the RSPCA had been sitting outside for two hours watching it. She thought it was real and had even brought a net with her to catch it. I felt like telling her it hadn’t moved in three weeks.”
Ms Dyerson said the owl was put on the pole by BT after her neighbour complained about bird muck landing on her car.
Southend’s aerial ladder platform was called in at 10.40am yesterday. Sub officer Paul Tregear said: “Just to make sure, the aerial ladder was called out to rescue this so-called owl. But we were told by neighbours it was a decoy. We obviously didn’t know this until we arrived.”
An embarrassed RSPCA was tipped off about the owl by a postman who said he had the seen the bird in the same position while on his rounds. RSPCA spokesman Klare Kennett said: “It’s not the first time we have been called to rescue an animal that isn’t real, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Sunday, 7 December 2008



SENIOR Councillor Paul Shotton and his wife Annette have won their appeal against an animal cruelty conviction and sentence.

The couple, were yesterday cleared of causing unnecessary suffering to their 13-year-old labrador Baron.

Last November they received two-year conditional discharges and were banned from keeping dogs for the same period after being found guilty at North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court.

Councillor Shotton, who sits on Stoke-on-Trent City Council and is a former deputy elected mayor, was forced to stand down from the authority's cabinet.
But yesterday judge Mark Eades, sitting with two magistrates at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, said evidence from veterinary pathologist Dr Udo Hetzel cast a new light on inferences from the first case.

Dr Hetzel, who carried out a post-mortem examination on Baron, said the dog had a heart condition and could have had a "sudden event" after the Shottons left him to go on holiday at 2pm on Saturday, July 15, 2006, and before the RSPCA inspector found him about eight hours later.
Judge Eades said: "Dr Hetzel said the factual accounts could all be true and the dog could have had a sudden event after 2pm. That could have been precipitated by heart problems and heart failure and therefore the inference the prosecution has been asking us to draw – that Mr and Mrs Shotton have been telling untruths – is not the case.

Dr Hetzel had also said the degree of suffering was not serious and would not reach the level of significance to amount to an offence.
"We are therefore formally of the view that when it comes to proof the prosecution cannot meet the required standard of proof."

After the judgment, councillor Shotton, aged 48, released a statement. It said: "Annette and I are pleased that after two-and-a-half years we have been cleared of every one of the RSPCA's allegations against us.
"At the original trial they claimed that our much loved family pet Baron was emaciated and dehydrated. He was not."

Tuesday, 2 December 2008



A few months back we rocked up to the RSPCA rescue centre and adopted not 1 but 2 cats, Lucy and Maya.

The adoption fee is £60 each, which includes, vacinations and most importantly, neutering, this involves, according to the leaflet the removal of the reproductive organs.

Anyway, 7am this morning, my daughter Taer runs upstairs to our bedroom freaking out saying theres something wrong with Lucy.

Fearing the worst, like she might be dead or something. Leeann goes down to her room and a few seconds later screams for me.

Shit I thought, Lucy died on Taers bed and shes gonna be traumatised for life! Running down to her room, I am faced with a sight that I will never forget.

Lucy, overnight, in Taers bed while she was sleeping gave birth to 3 kittens.

How the hell does a neutered cat have babies?

Anyway, her duvet is covered in blood and fluid from the birth but snuggled in amonst the toys are 2 of the most beautiful kittens I have ever seen an a extremely contented but tired mother.

Monday, 1 December 2008


RSPCA Prosecution and Conviction Figures, Obtained via Mr Charles Hendry MP, reveal that:

(a) the number of Defendants who appeal Magistrates' convictions is more than 26 times greater in RSPCA prosecutions than those progressed by the CPS; and

(b) the number of subsequent successful appeals at Crown Court is well over two times greater in RSPCA prosecutions than those progressed by the CPS.

These figures cause great concern, and their implications, in terms of financial costs, waste of human resources, court time and human misery, are appalling. It is a great pity that the RSPCA refused to make these figures public years ago so that the position could have been corrected.

Each case over and above the CPS norm absorbs court time and resources that are at a premium. It ties up members of the legal profession and expert witnesses, both defence and prosecution, all of whom have to be paid for, ultimately from public funds, whether via the legal aid budget, wasted RSPCA donations, awards from central funds or those few individuals who go so far as to sell their houses and everything they own to fund their defence.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


Judge critical of RSPCA in case of innocent couple
A judge has criticised the RSPCA for its handling of the prosecution of a Norwich couple accused of causing unnecessary suffering to their 24-year-old horse.
Gina and Martin Griffin appeared in court but district judge Philip Browning found them innocent, and said the "case could have been dealt with in a better and certainly more sympathetic way".
He ordered the RSPCA to pay the Griffins' costs.
The RSPCA claimed the horse, Florry, was too thin. But when the Griffins tried to explain that the horse had laminitis and was on restricted grazing, as recommended by their vet, the court was told the RSPCA inspector and vet refused to discuss the case with them. The court heard that Mrs Griffin bought Florry as a three-year-old, but because of injury, the horse was never ridden, living as a companion to her other horses.
The RSPCA seized Florry on 2 October 2006, despite her vet Charlotte Mayers' insistence that the horse was well cared for.
In a statement to the court, Mrs Griffin claimed the RSPCA inspector had an "aggressive attitude".
"I felt extremely distressed and anxious," said Mrs Griffin, who has kept horses for 30 years and has her BHSAI.
Florry was also diagnosed with Cushing's disease while in the RSPCA's care. Cushing's can cause muscle wastage and the Griffins feel this was responsible in part for Florry's lack of condition. Florry is due to be returned to the Griffins.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "An independent vet examined the horse and said it was suffering, that is why the RSPCA decided to bring this prosecution."
Anne Kasica, a spokesman for the Self Help Group (SHG), an organisation set up in 1990 to help people who feel they are being unfairly targeted by the RSPCA, said the Griffins' case was typical of many.
"The RSPCA's aims are to promote kindness and stop cruelty to animals," said Mrs Kasica. "How can it be kind to take a horse away from the loving home she had lived in for two decades?"
Self Help Group. Tel: 08700 726689

Friday, 28 November 2008



The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) is challenging the Crown Prosecution Service to review every RSPCA prosecution following startling revelations.

Two RSPCA prosecutions have collapsed following admissions by the RSPCA that they:

Routinely hold case conferences involving lay and expert witnesses,

Effectively ‘coach’ veterinary experts with the use of an extremely negatively worded pro-forma document

During the trials:
District Judge Grey at Harwich Magistrates Court expressed “grave concerns” about what had happened
Magistrates at Portsmouth Magistrates Court were highly critical of the RSPCA’s conduct and methods of investigation,
The Chairman of the Magistrates, Mr. Jim Morrison, stated that the RSPCA should change their practices in future,
Magistrates made serious criticisms of RSPCA Inspector Janet Edwards’ failure to explain what offences were being investigated.
Magistrates Chairman, Mr. Jim Morrison, stressed that in future the legislation must be explained to suspects and the RSPCA must tell them they have a right to have their own solicitor present during an interview,
The RSPCA must not imply any adverse inference will be drawn if there is an adjournment for this reason,
The revelations did not become known until the trial was under way because the RSPCA’s solicitors:
Steadfastly refused to disclose relevant documents to which the Defence were entitled.
Ernest Vine of the SHG said “We have seen transcripts of RSPCA conferences from other cases, so this is not an isolated incident. In fact we have one transcript from as long ago as 1999. This should raise alarm bells with all of the relevant authorities about the safety of every previous RSPCA conviction. Indeed, it is likely that many people have erroneously pleaded guilty on the basis of the RSPCA prosecution veterinary reports alone.”
“The SHG has been campaigning for the CPS to use their powers to quality control RSPCA prosecutions for some time and we wonder how much public money donated for animal welfare, and how much court time is going to continue to be wasted before the RSPCA is brought under the control of the laws that apply to everyone else in this country.”
Anne Kasica of the SHG concluded: “We told the government that proper protections for the public were needed in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 during the consultation exercise.
We warned them that such abuses of the human and civil rights of animal owners would be inevitable if they failed to implement such protections.”
“How many innocent people are going to be convicted, or put through the agonies of a highly public prosecution that fails, because the RSPCA is out of control and the relevant authorities are doing nothing to protect the public?”

Thursday, 27 November 2008



A judge has criticised the RSPCA for its handling of the prosecution of a Norwich couple accused of causing unnecessary suffering to their 24-year-old horse.
Gina and Martin Griffin appeared in court on 22 January, but district judge Philip Browning found them innocent, and said the "case could have been dealt with in a better and certainly more sympathetic way".
He ordered the RSPCA to pay the Griffins' costs.
The RSPCA claimed the horse, Florry, was too thin. But when the Griffins tried to explain that the horse had laminitis and was on restricted grazing, as recommended by their vet, the court was told the RSPCA inspector and vet refused to discuss the case with them.
The court heard that Mrs Griffin bought Florry as a three-year-old, but because of injury, the horse was never ridden, living as a companion to her other horses.
The RSPCA seized Florry on 2 October 2006, despite her vet Charlotte Mayers' insistence that the horse was well cared for.
In a statement to the court, Mrs Griffin claimed the RSPCA inspector had an "aggressive attitude".
"I felt extremely distressed and anxious," said Mrs Griffin, who has kept horses for 30 years and has her BHSAI.
Florry was also diagnosed with Cushing's disease while in the RSPCA's care. Cushing's can cause muscle wastage and the Griffins feel this was responsible in part for Florry's lack of condition. Florry is due to be returned to the Griffins.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "An independent vet examined the horse and said it was suffering, that is why the RSPCA decided to bring this prosecution."
Anne Kasica, a spokesman for the Self Help Group (SHG), an organisation set up in 1990 to help people who feel they are being unfairly targeted by the RSPCA, said the Griffins' case was typical of many.
"The RSPCA's aims are to promote kindness and stop cruelty to animals," said Mrs Kasica. "How can it be kind to take a horse away from the loving home she had lived in for two decades?"

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


A pensioner has been banned from keeping animals for life.Sylvia Bailey, 67, , Stevenage, was found guilty at the town magistrates' court today of eight offences of failing to meet the welfare needs of 22 cats under the Animal Welfare Act.
Immediately after the case her defence counsel Sean Smith QC said an appeal would be lodged against both the ban and the confiscation order.
The prosecution was brought by the RSPCA after inspector Melanie Fisher visited Bailey's home with a vet,
"Bailey denied she had mistreated the cats, saying: "I have never failed my cats."All of my savings have gone on these cats."Bailey was ordered to pay £500 towards the total costs for the case of over £54,000.The remainder will come from public funds.


Introduction - The Emotional Attitude
If there is such a thing as an honest criminal, then the offences committed by him would in all likelihood fall into the category of dishonesty or violence. By that I mean that there are certain criminal offences which have little emotional effect upon the general public because they identify with the perpetrator as much as they do with the aggrieved. For example, whilst shoplifting is generally condemned the numerous reports of shoplifting court cases in local newspapers receive scant attention by the readers unless of course they have some personal contact with the incident. Likewise an assault at a night-club raises little sympathy with the general public who may well see such people at such premises as deserving what they get. Even professional villains themselves will see it as fair play if having committed a burglary they are caught, plead not guilty but are convicted. On the higher levels of dishonesty complicated fraud matters will raise condemnation at arms length by observers but underneath quite possibly a covert smile if the fraudster has got away with “ripping off” the Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise or one of the big banks.
Then there are those offences which in legal or criminal terms are at the lower end of the scale but which raise disproportionate emotions in the general public. Whilst an indecent assault may be seen as less culpable than murder and the rape of a girl by her boyfriend as less culpable than a violent armed robbery, these classes of offence will result in the public's attention and it will form a much more narrow view of both the victim and the perpetrator than in the former but more serious cases. Even with this class of offence views are polarised. There may be no great argument with the assertion that a sizeable minority of the general public would support the abolition of certain drug offences such as the possession of cannabis. Others would whole- heartedly condemn it in the belief that it leads to far more serious drug-taking and thereby to other offences of a serious nature. But, offences involving animals fall into a totally different category.
There is a small proportion of the population which has either no care for suffering in animals or delights in witnessing or perpetrating suffering. These would be seen by 99% of the population as a sub-species of human endowed with pure evil. Where such persons are convicted of cruelty to animals they are likely to receive sentences of imprisonment and quite properly so, most people would say. Such cases are very well publicised for a number of different reasons. These include deterrence so that the public knows that such people have been caught, convicted and imprisoned. Another reason for publicity, however, is that it is a "purse-opener" for the organisations and individuals involved in the prosecutions. I will however go on to that later.
The Consequences of the Emotional Response
These are far more reaching than those not directly involved with this subject would realise. Animal cruelty prosecutions raise immediate barriers in people's minds and so affect fairness. Witnesses who are involved in shoplifting cases, road traffic accident prosecutions and most criminal cases are at arms length. They may never have been involved in court proceedings before and have no axe to grind with either side in the proceedings. They give their evidence to the best of their ability even though they might be genuinely mistaken and it is clear that people do not always accurately see or hear what is the truth of the matter; only what they believe to be the case. But in animal welfare prosecutions the emotions come into play, colouring and distorting logic. The accusation itself is generally enough to rouse these emotions and it applies not only to witnesses but to the mind of the individual be they a witness, a prosecutor, a court official or a magistrate. Of course such an attitude would be denied not least because the people concerned often do not believe they have been influenced by the subject matter and even if they did realise it they certainly would not admit it. Now this is no idle claim. Although I have been involved with either prosecution or defence of criminal matters for the past 36 years, the past 13 years have been involved in either prosecuting or defending these cases. Examples are numerous but to give two out of hundreds should make the point.
Example One
In a certain north country magistrates' court an electrician, who as a hobby possessed some Jack Russells for fox and other vermin control found himself before the magistrates' court for causing cruelty by neglect. His daughter suffered from epilepsy and was at home from school on her own. The day before, an estate agent had called as the house was to be sold. In surveying the house he saw in cages at the back a number of Jack Russells, one being old with one eye and a few old scars. This is not unusual in terriers which have been used for fox control and which are well into the 10-20 year age range. The result of this observation was a complaint to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“RSPCA”) by the estate agent that the vendor had a seriously injured dog locked up in his backyard. The result of that without any prior notice was the attendance at the man's premises by three uniformed RSPCA employees and two police officers without any form of warrant and without any intention to arrest. Upon their arrival the girl got out of bed and answered the door. The door was pushed open and she was told that they wished to search the premises. Knowing no different she let them in and they found not the dog which was old but a younger dog which had indeed been recently bitten, which had not been seen by the estate agent, but which was being treated in accordance with veterinary instructions. Nevertheless, the terriers were seized and at court the veterinary surgeon gave evidence that he was aware of the case, had given the owner instructions which were being followed and indeed by the time of the court case the injury had properly healed up. The magistrates nevertheless convicted and gave a conditional discharge. An appeal to the Crown Court would have resulted in an acquittal but the stress and abuse received by the defendant from members of the public who had read about the case was such that he did not wish to pursue the appeal and prolong the agony further.
Such cases receive high publicity, not only after or during the court case but even before because the RSPCA in particular circulate press releases announcing their forthcoming prosecutions to local, regional and sometimes national media.
Example Two
The second concerns a farmer in the south east of England whose 16 year old daughter had over a matter of three years built up for herself a small flock of sheep. The farmer and his daughter attended the local market and paid £25 each for three sock lambs. The lambs were apparently fit and healthy but ten days later they were attacked by a fox and injured. The veterinary practice had supplied the farmer with antibiotics and other drugs in the normal course of business for treating small injuries such as this. Two of the lambs got better and the other was getting better when a member of the public on a farm visit saw the lamb and called the RSPCA. An RSPCA employee arrived, seized the lamb and by the time it reached the veterinary surgeons it was dead. The farmer was interviewed by the RSPCA employee at the veterinary surgeon's clinic in the presence of two police officers and knowing no better and having no rights under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”) because the interview was not at a police station, he answered questions which were later used against him despite his Counsel's accurate advice to the magistrates that the interview should not be admissible in evidence. The application under s.78 of PACE Act 1984 to exclude the interview from evidence was rejected. After a two day case in which the prosecution alleged that he had caused unnecessary suffering by not calling his own vet out to the lamb and despite evidence being given by two veterinary surgeons, one an expert in sheep care, that he did all that could have been done by a vet he was nevertheless convicted and fined £500 with £1,000 costs. Again he would not appeal to the Crown Court in accordance with his Counsel's advice because of the financial and emotional strain on himself and his family.
Tiers of Justice
Had either of these, and many other cases, been dealt with in the same manner as straight forward criminal cases there would not have been convictions because where similar cases have been appealed the appellants have been successful in the Crown Court. So what is the difference? The obvious difference is that an impartial professional judge views the facts in accordance with the law, and time and time again in the magistrates' court three ordinary citizens without professional legal training differ from that approach in their decisions. Animal cruelty cases can be dealt with at first instance only in the magistrates' court, being summary only matters. They cannot ever be tried by a judge and jury.
Law and Offences
I now come to what is the hub of this lecture. Animal cases tend mainly to deal with horses, dogs and farm animals although there is a smattering of cases involving exotic animals and wild animals.
The Protection of Animals Act, 1911 has remained unchanged for 88 years. It deals with domestic or captive animals only. The latest cruelty case in the Divisional Court upon the subject of what is or what is not within the definition and in which case my firm was instructed maintained the strict difference between a wild animal and a domestic or captive one. Other than that case (Barrington v Colbert & Ors 1996), there are very few decided cases upon the subject because the main ratio is that decisions are made by the court upon the facts (Dee v Yorke 1914).
What is clear is that section 1(i)(a) is a remarkable section drafted with perspicacity and which in one sentence can create many offences out of one action. Any combination of the adjectives or verbs contained within that section can amount to a single offence and many offences can be charged based upon the same action by the defendant, (Johnson v Needham 1909). Nevertheless, where this occurs only one sentence can be passed for one action no matter how many are charged. Furthermore it is not only action but inaction that can result in a prosecution. The intention to cause cruelty is not required to be proved by the prosecution only that unnecessary suffering was caused whether it was intentional, through neglect or omission and by not only the owner but by any other person having a duty of care in these circumstances.
While the Protection of Animals Act 1911 does provide a power of arrest for police, case law has defined very clearly that Parliament did not intend any other organisation such as the RSPCA to be empowered under the Act and therefore the RSPCA does not have any powers of arrest, or entry or of search (Line v RSPCA 1902). Like any other person or organisation that the law deems to have a duty to investigate - e.g. HM Customs & Excise, Local Authority Trading Standards - the RSPCA is expected to conform to the rules in PACE so far as they relate to matters of investigation.
As I have suggested, while the rules apply in a police station (for instance, to inform someone of an accuser's presence there), they do not apply to interviews outside of a police station. Nevertheless, RSPCA employees are trained to tell suspects that they are not under arrest. This is an indication at the least and an inference more assuredly to a person that the uniformed RSPCA employee, does indeed have a power of arrest but is not exercising it. There is no doubt that the wearing of a police-like uniform tends to influence an accused. The lay person is then put in a position where he feels that he is actually obliged to answer questions, even though he is told in the caution that he need not do so. Emphasis is put upon the new ingredients of the caution - i.e. “but it may harm your defence when questioned if you do not mention something you later wish to rely on in evidence".
Some of you may recall the controversy which was raised about the actual wording of the new caution. To find a simple formula of wording was difficult. It is now so short that its meaning has to be explained to suspects who are to be asked to convince the interviewer that he or she does indeed understand it. It is a pity that taken literally the new caution indicates that the suspect will indeed find himself in court.
As in all formal investigations with police or otherwise, we find time and time again an attitude whereby a person is led to believe prior to interview that it is not a particularly serious matter and a little help would be appreciated to clear it up and then the person finds just within the six month limitation on proceedings, a summons requiring him to defend himself in court or admit that he has committed the offence. It is surprising just how long it seems to take from the time of an alleged offence to lay the informations: they tend to be laid a week or two before the six months' limitation expires. This, of course, has the effect of making it very difficult for a defendant to gather evidence because so much time has passed since the incident. With the new moves in the courts to hasten matters, the defendant is left with a very short time, often a matter of weeks, to decide upon plea and a matter of a month or two in which to prepare a defence if the matter is to be contested. The prosecution have had almost six months in which to prepare their case.
The Protection of Animals Act 1911 provides the police with no power of entry - other than to a knacker's yard - they do have a power of entry under the provisions of PACE if they intend to make an arrest. Having made an arrest and entered premises then, the police are in a position to seize evidence. The RSPCA does not have any powers that are not afforded to the ordinary person.
The usual procedure by RSPCA employees who deal with the majority of animal cruelty allegations is, upon the receipt of information, to visit the person and attempt to gain entry to obtain evidence and interview them. Where a person has either refused them entry or has refused to answer questions, they will immediately caution the person and then tell them that they will get the police. The police rely a great deal upon RSPCA expertise in these matters and therefore usually comply with the RSPCA request to accompany them to a suspected offender. The appearance of one or two uniformed police officers usually results in compliance with the RSPCA request. However, once property has been seized, the police then often leave it with the RSPCA to issue the proceedings. Animals which are seized are usually examined by a veterinary surgeon appointed by the RSPCA and thereafter usually disappear to a safe- haven and remain there until the end of the court case. Contact with the RSPCA is difficult. They have a national telephone number for regional centres and only messages can be left there. The speed with which the RSPCA answers, if at all, is entirely in the hands of the RSPCA; the longer an animal seized by them remains unexamined by a veterinary surgeon appointed by the prospective defendant, the more difficult it is for the defence to prove the condition of the animal at the time of the alleged offence.
I am not suggesting that this is a deliberate ploy. While the RSPCA does a magnificent job in dealing with animal welfare throughout the UK, it has a large legal and public relations team at their headquarters at Horsham in West Sussex, nationally-advertised policies reflecting its attitudes, it lobbies Parliament, influences the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and is increasingly using the media and television to improve and secure its position in respect of animals and animal welfare as it sees it. For instance, whatever an individual thinks about hunting, Parliament has not made it an offence to hunt foxes. Nevertheless the RSPCA believes it to be cruel and has made it clear that it will do all that it can to make hunting a crime. It is co-operating with the League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare under one banner - The Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals - an organisation directly concerned with using all lawful means to ban hunting.
Whilst this address is primarily concerned with horses, specific matters about which I will cover shortly, animal welfare prosecutions are regularly aimed at cases involving dogs, sheep, cows, chicken, badgers and birds.
The RSPCA's representations to the Government and to the RCVS resulted in tail- docking by lay persons becoming an offence and by veterinary surgeons risking allegations of professional malpractice. Puppy farming is also abhorred. Of all farm animals the creature with an inherent propensity to incur injury or illness is the sheep and it is very difficult to examine in detail each of a flock of a thousand sheep each day. The badger has become sacred and now a badger-related allegation receives more attention in terms of police time than a robbery because the Badger has become the highest priority of all protected animals both in legal terms and in response times. Likewise a warrant to search premises granted to police under s.19 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 will usually be executed with all the facilities expected to be used on a top class criminal.
Horses pose a particular problem to prosecutors because of their size and weight. A dog can be put in the back of a van but to remove a horse requires far more organisation. Cases usually start with a well meaning person telephoning RSPCA to report what he or she believes to be a case of a suffering horse. The first visit is usually by one or two RSPCA employees, occasionally with police. The greatest cause of public concern is emaciation. However, anyone who has any reasonable knowledge of horses will know that a horse whose ribs are showing or whose back bone is prominent is not necessarily emaciated. There may be many causes of apparent thinness: lack of or ineffective worming, age or an illness being properly treated. Sometimes it is just a horse which is not a “good-doer” but which has been well-fed and properly wormed.
It is at this stage of an investigation that a defendant's problems begin. Whilst neither the RSPCA nor police has any legal right to enter a field or stable they will often ignore the deliberate and wilful commission of the tort of trespass or conversion and enter the premises in the knowledge that a defendant will not usually issue proceedings in the civil courts and even if that happened a judge would be most unlikely to award any sort of meaningful damages, especially if a successful conviction resulted from the trespass and conversion.
It is a moot point whether the seizing of a horse from a field upon the assertion that it is evidence of an offence of cruelty is lawful. Clearly police have power to seize property when lawfully upon premises but what of an unlawful seizure during an unlawful trespass? Of late some forces have claimed to use the power contained in s.17(1)(e) PACE - i.e. that granted to police officers to enter and search any premises for the purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property. Animals, they claim, are property and serious illness would cause serious damage. This idea has yet to be tested in the higher courts.
Being summary only offences magistrates are limited to passing a sentence of 6 months in custody on a single offence and no more than one year on two or more offences plus fines of up to £5,000 on each conviction. Of course, there are standard guidelines as to the monetary penalties such as the defendant's ability to pay off fines within a year.
In addition to monetary penalties the courts have power under s.3 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 to order the forfeiture of the animal concerned if it were owned by the offender but not otherwise. However, before the court can exercise this power it must be satisfied by evidence being called that the offender has a previous conviction or that the animal is likely to suffer further cruelty.
Also, under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954, the court has power to disqualify an offender from having the custody of animals or any specific species of animals for any length of time.
Where a case is not strong but a conviction has resulted, a conditional discharge is often applied. In an average case fines extend from a few hundred pounds up to the thousands and where the cruelty is deliberate without good cause and a positive act of cruelty, very often imprisonment results. One thing which is also a regular feature is a request for prosecution costs from those private prosecutions which normally run into thousands. Of course, courts are guided in their penalties and a defendant should be in a position to pay off any monetary penalties within one year. Other than that, the normal considerations of sentencing apply. The penalties for animal cruelty are generally higher than the penalties for shoplifting or equivalent standard of criminal behaviour.
It is not, however, just a court that the defendants have to contend with. Hate- mail, abusive telephone calls, criminal damage to homes and vehicles are all a regular result of a conviction for cruelty. There seem to be more nutters concerned with animal welfare than with child abuse or for ordinary criminal offences by the honest criminal involving dishonesty or violence or both. There is remarkably little interest although the serious effect of these crimes is much greater.
There are two areas that the defence lawyer must address as swiftly as possible when involved in the defence of animal welfare prosecutions. The first is, as with most offences, trying to advise the prospective defendant before he undertakes any interview. So often the defendant does not realise the position he or she is in, does not realise the relevance of questions that are being asked by the investigator and often makes unfortunate and misleading answers to questions which result in a prosecution or a conviction which otherwise might have been avoided.
Competent and recognised experts, often veterinary surgeons, must be put into a position to gather evidence on behalf of the defence at the very first opportunity. In animal cruelty cases the veterinary surgeon must be experienced in the type of animal concerned. In badger cases it is an expert on badgers; likewise with birds you have to decide whether it is an ornithologist or an aviculturist that you need to support the defence contentions. Knowing the procedures and personalities concerned is very important. For instance, in a case of a horse trampling on a person a few years ago we discovered that there were few experts on the subject. The British Army no longer use horses in battle and the only real expertise lay with mounted police officers who have experience in riot situations involving horses. Because it is an emotive subject there are few experts upon badgers who are prepared to act for defendants whereas every member of a badger watch group seems to consider himself or herself an expert upon the subject and will willingly see badgers emerging from any hole in the ground at any hour of the day or night. There are probably half a dozen avian veterinary surgeons in this country who regularly deal with bird related prosecutions and defences and there are even fewer veterinary surgeons who are experts with elephants, tigers, monkeys and the like.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of veterinary surgeons specialising in equine matters; however, they do vary. Always consider the client's own horse vet first but do not reject a higher level specialist to support his evidence. Many veterinary surgeons specialise but they do not all pass the necessary examinations for additional qualifications. The RCVS and the universities will often provide an individual who can throw unexpected light on a particular case. Reference sources for equine experts can also be found in the Law Society Directory of Expert Witnesses, other directories and more directly The Equine Lawyers Association, which lists over a hundred members concerned with the equine legal world. Little things often make a difference such as whether the prosecution veterinary surgeon carried blood samples in a refrigerated container in the boot of his car; or were they left on the back seat in the sun!
Good funding is essential for a successful defence in an animal welfare prosecution. Many of the experts are very busy and financially successful in their expert areas. Do bear in mind, however, that the Costs in Criminal Causes (General) Regulations created under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 lay down the basic rule that witnesses are paid out of Central Funds unless the court directs otherwise. The allowances are laid down in the regulations and although they are not generous they are certainly a substantial way of resolving a defendant's dilemma when it comes to funding expert evidence. While Legal Aid is possible in some of these cases, especially where there is a genuine risk of imprisonment or a loss of business through a conviction, there can generally be no topping up of funding once a Legal Aid Order has been made. Do not forget the exception which is where the Legal Aid Board have refused to cover a disbursement then you may be at liberty to obtain funding from elsewhere. Any person with any sense these days either individually or through an organisation to which he or she belongs should have or obtain Legal Expenses Insurance. Many of the national organisations which my firm represents have such insurance packages and it is a life-saver for members who find themselves in trouble.
Do not fall into the trap of believing that in an animal welfare prosecution your client will be treated in the same way as an honest criminal. It is a much more arduous journey to reach a successful conclusion when defending animal cruelty prosecutions. It is not just a matter of fact and law but gaining the court';s sympathy for the client as well as for the animal. This is the pathway which leads to acquittals. Many cases should not and would not have been brought had the subject matter not been about animals. But a court will quite often make a criminal of a well-meaning and caring defendant just because his or her husbandry did not reach the standard insisted upon by the prosecutor.
The author, Jeffery Hide, is one of the lawyers at Knights Solicitors, a specialist litigation practice well-known for representing clients with animal and countryside interests on a national level. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and a Commissioner for Oaths. Formerly a Police Inspector and lecturer in criminal law, he is an examiner for the British Horse Society in Riding and Safety and is presently Vice-Chairman of the East Sussex County Committee of the BHS.
Notes prepared by
Knights, Solicitors of Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008



A pensioner appeared in court after 22 cats were removed from her home by police following an investigation by the RSPCA.

Sylvia Bailey, 67, of Stevenage, pleaded not guilty at the town magistrates' court to eight offences of failing to meet the welfare needs of the cats under the Animal Welfare Act.
On one occasion Ms Bailey was told to keep quiet by chairman of the magistrates Dr David Izod after she whispered "liar" as an RSPCA inspector gave evidence on the treatment of the cats. Ms Bailey later broke down in tears and the case was adjourned for 10 minutes while she recovered.

RSPCA inspector Melanie Fisher told the court how Ms Bailey's home was in a bad state on December 15 last year,

Accompanied by an animal warden, Insp Fisher said the RSPCA had gone to the property after a report from a member of the public about the cats.
Ms Bailey was then served with a notice to have the cats examined and treated by a vet.
But when Insp Fisher returned to the property on Christmas Eve nothing had been done and the flat remained dirty.

At another meeting at her home, the court heard, there was a clash between Ms Bailey and the RSPCA inspector who tried to interview her."She became extremely hostile," added Insp Fisher. "She just kept calling me a bitch. She was hostile and aggressive and she would not agree to the interview and made derogatory remarks so I left."Under cross examination by Sean Smith, QC, the inspector refused to disclose who had notified the RSPCA about the cats.

Mr Smith told the court: "She (Ms Bailey) says there are large portions of your report of the interview with her which she says are not what she said at all."Insp Fisher replied: "I beg to differ."


I read with interest the article "Maltreatment of Animals"
I am a Franchised Criminal Solicitor who is also a member of the NSA and I have a small farm at the foot of the Sussex Downs. Being a Franchised Criminal Solicitor means that I am approved by the Government for a contract to supply criminal defence services, which means that I provide those services under the Legal Aid System. Whilst I agree with the general advice given of seeking advice and help from a solicitor at the earliest opportunity, that advice should be taken a stage further.
Obviously RSPCA prosecutions are extremely stressful and distressing for those on the receiving end. However the article fails to mention what I consider the most important point. An RSPCA prosecution is a criminal one. As a result, if you are convicted the repercussions can be disastrous because of the draconian powers that the magistrates have by way of disqualification from keeping animals and, in the worst cases, imprisonment. It is my view therefore, being a criminal lawyer of twenty-seven years admission, that whilst you need to seek expert advice, the solicitor that you have used all your life to deal with family matters and aspects such as conveyancing may not necessarily be the best person in these cases as he may not have the experience to deal with an RSPCA prosecution.
When the RSPCA appear at you gate, you need the expert advice of a Franchised Criminal Lawyer. Not only will he be familiar and have the skills to deal with the RSPCA and the police, but he will also have the added benefit of being able to provide you with his services under the Legal Aid Scheme. You will therefore not have to fund your defence - it will effectively be free. As a result of the Human Rights Act coming into force in this country, Crimi8nal Legal Aid is no longer means-tested and is not dependent upon your financial situation. In my experience all RSPCA prosecutions attract Legal Aid because of the serious nature of those prosecutions, the expertise needed to defend them, and the serious punishments the Court can impose if convicted.
Criminal Defence Solicitors who are contracted to the Government advertise this fact in the local press and in Yellow Pages, but if necessary you should contact either the Law Society or the Legal Services Commission direct who will supply you with a list of solicitors who have a Criminal Defence Contract. However, you should go one step further and ask whoever you contact whether they have defended an RSPCA prosecution before. This is a specialist area that requires specialist skills and there will be a solicitor in your area who is both franchised and has experience in dealing with the RSPCA.
If you are represented by a Franchised Solicitor, the added stress of continuing to try and find money to fund your defence privately will not be an issue. Defending RSPCA prosecutions is expensive because it requires the instruction of numerous experts. The trial by its very nature can last several weeks. The worry of funding your defence is therefore removed which relieves you of that added burden. I have heard of some farmers who have been forced to remortgage their premises to pay their solicitors when the chances are that a Franchised Solicitor who is an expert and is approved by the Government to do such work has been practising in their locality.
There are other aspects of the article that I disagree with. For instance, in my experience the RSPCA do not enter into a dialogue - the first you know about them is when they seize your animals. My advise is fairly simple; don't talk to the RSPCA about any allegations unless in the presence of a Franchised Criminal Solicitor, endeavour to keep the RSPCA off your property, remember they have no right to enter unless in the company of the police and, most importantly, try to avoid the animals being seized by the RSPCA. Unfortunately that is normally unavoidable as the first you will know about their interest is when they are in the field rounding up your animals in the company of the police. It is then absolutely vital that you contact an expert because those animals will have to be seen by your independent expert vet or nutritionist within the first twenty-four hours. Unfortunately this is not covered by Legal Aid and this is one expense you will have to be responsible for but it is vital to the conduct of any defence that a independent vet and any other appropriate independent expert does see them.
Nigel WellerSolicitors
East Sussex