Monday, 20 October 2008
MIND CONDEMNS RSPCA PROSECUTIONS
By Katharine Quarmby
Disability Now has gathered evidence that Britain’s best-known animal charity, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), often prosecutes disabled people for alleged animal welfare offences.
Many pet owners, in particular those with mental health problems, have been prosecuted. The effect of the trial and media coverage on them can be harrowing. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) tends not to prosecute disabled people. Its code for crown prosecutors states: “Crown prosecutors must balance the desirability of diverting a defendant who is suffering from significant mental or physical ill health with the need to safeguard the general public.”
Mind’s policy officer Anna Bird said that it was worrying that a “high” number of people with mental health problems appear to be being prosecuted by the RSPCA. Lawrence Butterford, a pet owner and mental health nurse who has experienced mental distress, said: “I am saddened that the RSPCA cannot accept that pets can play an important role in keeping people with depression well…it sounds extreme to prosecute people with depression.” He added that animals must be protected from neglect but that prosecution was not the answer.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said that the charity did not target disabled people for prosecution but admitted that it did not keep statistics on how many defendants had impairments.