It was my job to report on how brilliantly the horses and ponies had recovered from their ordeal, but I couldn’t help but wonder why the RSPCA had taken so long to intervene. It turned out there were numerous staff to look after just these five horses. Plans were afoot to build a brand new stable block, when to me the one already there looked immaculate.
Last year, while looking round a farm that was up for sale, I came across two collies in a cage. They had no bedding, not much space and were sitting in their own excrement. Their water was green and slimy. When I got home, I called the RSPCA. They promised an officer would inspect the farm and call me back. No officer ever did call me.
Only last week, I got an email from a lady called Barbara: ‘An 82-year-old friend went into hospital. Her son was supposed to look after her six cats but he didn’t turn up. I told the RSPCA but they weren’t interested.’
Before that, at the end of January, I received a letter from Margaret in Hayes, Middlesex. She said she had called the RSPCA emergency helpline on nine occasions – reporting that her neighbour was beating and torturing his dog in sessions that lasted for between 30 and 40 minutes.
Another neighbour also called the RSPCA four times.
The RSPCA took three-and-a-half months to finally respond to the call for help and unfortunately, by then, the dog had disappeared and another met a similar fate. Which makes me wonder how the charity is spending its money: £115,288,000 was donated in 2010, the latest figure available. In the South East region there are only six officers in total.
While much is made of the salaries of our top bankers, I wonder what salary the new chief executive, Gavin Grant, is on (the chief press officer wouldn’t tell me). I hate giving animal charities a bad press because most of them don’t deserve it.
There was a report in the papers recently accusing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the US of putting to sleep ‘more than 95 per cent of adoptable dogs and cats last year’. PETA tells me it releases its euthanasia figures every year to draw attention to the animal population crisis. Most of the animals it accepts (it is not a rehoming centre) are severely injured, aggressive or otherwise unadoptable. It is a shelter of last resort.
But this story was seized on, attributed to research done by the Center for Consumer Freedom. What the news stories failed to mention was that the CCF is funded in part by Kentucky Fried Chicken, Outback Steakhouse and cattle ranchers. All were keen to smear an animal-rights group that had, in 2004, exposed the awful abuse of chickens, with rogue workers at KFC supplier Pilgrim’s Pride slamming them against walls and using them as footballs. But mud sticks, unfortunately.
When I phoned the RSPCA about the collies and Staffie pup, they said they would investigate. We shall see. But Barbara and Margaret who, from their correspondence with me, seem meticulous and caring members of the public, were not offered anything, not even a piece of advice on the telephone.
So, yes, I could hold back from criticising the RSPCA, as at least they do something to help animals. But on behalf of every little old lady who picks up the phone over an animal in distress, or donates some of her pension each week, or leaves behind a legacy in her will, I really do feel it could do an awful lot better.