Royal SPCA of Great Britain “prioritizes” by declining to accept surrendered pets

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:


LONDON–Non-Royal SPCA British animal
shelters and some RSPCA affiliates are still
assessing the impact of an RSPCA policy decision
to “prioritize” shelter admissions to
“RSPCA-generated” animals.
“The only change,” insisted RSPCA chief
superintendent Tim Wass to the Times of London,
“is that spaces in our own animal centres are
being prioritised for animals rescued by RSPCA
inspectors from cruelty and neglect. This means
that the abandoned, abused, sick or injured
animals who are most in need receive our care
before animals whom people simply don’t want any
longer. We will never turn away an animal in
need,” Wass said.

“Several RSPCA animal centers have been
doing this for a number of years,” Wass
continued, “and have found members of the public
have been very supportive–it is common sense for
us to make space for animals in imminent danger
or who have been abused.”
Elaborated RSPCA operations director
Nigel Yeo to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “The RSPCA comprises
a national society and about 170 separate branch
charities under our banner and standards but not
our control. The new policy applies to the 17
national centers and to a degree the four
hospitals and six clinics run nationally–
although the policy is less strict there at this
time. I do not know how many branches will
follow the national lead,” Yeo said. Added Yeo,
“We have been turning away animals for years
because of lack of space. We took about 20,000
animals into our national centres [last year],
including those seized as part of an
The 169 RSPCA affiliate shelters
collectively rehome about 70,000 dogs and cats
per year. The next largest British sheltering
organization, Dogs Trust, rehomes about 10,000
dogs and cats per year through 17 shelters.
Asked what the fallout from the RSPCA
policy change was on Dogs Trust, chief executive
Clarissa Baldwin told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “In great
frustration, the short answer is no news. We
are trying to get a handle on the numbers” of
animals who might be refused by the RSPCA and
come to Dogs Trust instead. “RSPCA headquarters
branches will undoubtedly be following the new
regime,” Baldwin said, “but there are a large
number of autonomous branches who may not
acquiesce. There are 58 members of the
Association of Dogs & Cats Homes and I am in
touch with them,” Baldwin added. “We’ll pick up
what ever we can, but will need some proper
stats before a longterm plan can be put in place.”
Asked Lesley Slater, founder of the
Freshfields Animal Rescue Centers in Liverpool
and North Wales, “Where will all the strays go
now? There is a great need for rescue kennels,”
Slater continued, noting that the Freshfields
facilities “will not provide enough shelter for
the many dogs who are going to be picked up. It
is going to be a disaster for the canine
population,” she predicted.
“It is too early to tell really what the
impact of the RSPCA decision will be,” Mayhew
Animal Home vice chair James Hogan told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, “but as yet we have not noticed anything
more than the usual overload. It is our
understanding that the RSPCA said their local
shelters will be encouraged but not be forced to
comply. We believe it will take some time before
it is possible to accurately determine how this
directive will operate in practice.”
Said Bath Cats & Dogs Home chair Chris
Pope, “We have spent the last 70 years caring
for local animals in need. We operate
independently of the RSPCA and therefore decide
our own priorities. Thanks to our independent
status, Bath Cats & Dogs Home will not adopt the
RSPCA’s proposals.”
The first major no-kill animal shelter in
Britain, Bath Cats & Dogs Home rehomes about
3,000 dogs, cats and other small animals per year.
“I think when it comes to the branches,”
predicted RSPCA governing council chair Angela
Walder to BBC Channel 4, “they will do what
they’ve always done, which is take in as many
animals as they can.” Walder chairs the RSPCA
branch in Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
The RSPCA policy change reached the
public via Channel 4 News on April 20, 2010,
after Channel 4 received a leaked copy of a memo
circulated that day to affliliates and
headquarters staff. The policy change was
tested, according to an RSPCA media statement,
by the Ashley Heath Animal Center near Ringwood,
Surrey, and the Millbrook Animal Centre in
Chobham, Surrey.
“This comes after the RSPCA itself
complained that the number of abandoned animals
is soaring as a result of recession,” Channel 4
reported. According to Channel 4, the RSPCA
expected 17 shelters operated by RSPCA
headquarters and 40 affiliates to accept the
policy change, meaning that about two-thirds of
the RSPCA network would continue to accept all
Channel 4 News said it had received
documents saying “The move will allow the RSPCA
to become more efficient, by reducing the need
for the organisation to pay to house animals in
private boarding facilities.”
Noted Channel 4, “The RSPCA had an
income of £119 million in 2008 and is Britain’s
eighth largest charity. This latest move is part
of a £54 million savings scheme over three
years,” instituted “after donations fell in the
The RSPCA is handling steeply increased
numbers of “RSPCA-generated” animals in recent
years. Investigating 110,841 alleged cruelty and
neglect cases in 2005, RSPCA inspectors handled
140,575 cases in 2008.
“The rise is in part the result of the
Animal Welfare Act, which came into effect in
2007, which introduced new offences of failures
in animal welfare, rather than just cruelty,”
Channel 4 News said.
British Veterinary Association
president-elect Harvey Locke supported the RSPCA
policy change, but acknowledged “concern that
more unwanted pets may be left to fend for
themselves, that people will just leave them on
the streets or turf them out of their cars on the
motorway. I would like to think that that would
not happen,” Locke said, “but that is a risk.”
The new RSPCA policy was introduced just
at the peak of “puppy and kitten season,” when
accidental spring litters flood shelters
Tracing the use of the terms “puppy
season” and “kitten season,” ANIMAL PEOPLE
learned that since shelter intakes of puppies and
kittens began to be quantified in the 1970s,
available records from shelters mostly in the
U.S. but also in other nations indicate that
about 30% of all puppies and kittens received
have come in the months of March and April; 30%
have arrived in the single month of May; 30%
have come in June and July; and only 10% have
arrived during the other seven months of the year.
The total numbers of puppies and kittens
received by shelters have fallen by upward of 90%
in many cities, to the point that puppies and
kittens are no longer a large part of shelter
intake in much of the U.S. and Britain, but the
seasonal pattern of births and arrivals of
puppies and kittens has changed relatively

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