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.
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.”
Sally Case, head of prosecutions, insists that RSPCA inspectors are trained specifically to make clear to pet-owners that they have no such right.