Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Enquiry into the RSPCA?

Suppose there was to be an enquiry into the RSPCA, what would it find?

First of all it needs to be pointed out that the RSPCA is a charity, not a government body, so it's not exactly clear on what basis an enquiry would be set up: to paraphrase a famous saying of Thomas Erskine, one of our founders: "We can do what we decide with money we raised ourselves."

Provided the Charity Commission is satisfied that the Society is being properly run in the sense that the Trustees are not pocketing the funds or spending them on terrorism and the law on party political campaigns is not being broken there are no grounds for them opening an inquiry into the RSPCA on the basis of the normal regulation of charities.

It would be possible to have a parliamentary enquiry into the RSPCA to "look into" the way we work but (barring extraordinary changes to the way the law works) it couldn't (for example) order all the staff to work for the minimum wage or force the Society to take in all stray dogs.

It's hard to see how it would be possible to justify holding an enquiry into the influence of the RSPCA in our society without a complementary one into the influence of the Countryside Alliance and other animal-industry bodies.

An enquiry into the Tasmanian RSPCA by the Public Accounts Committee of the Tasmanian Parliament is currently in progress and if you follow the link you'll see that the terms of reference are: "the capacity of the RSPCA to receive and expend public monies in accordance with public expectations."

The vital difference between the Tasmanian RSPCA and the RSPCA in England and Wales is that we receive no direct state funding other than the usual charitable tax reliefs while the Tasmanian RSPCA inspectors are paid for by their government. The English government is getting a free service that the Tasmanian government pays quite a lot of money for.

Incidentally if our HQ was suddenly required to produce financial records for money spent on the inspectorate I have absolute confidence they could do it within a matter of hours.

Reading between the lines it looks as if RSPCA Tasmania's difficulties were partly because they were being paid for the inspectorate but not being given anything towards the costs of looking after animals seized in the course of investigations. So although they were being paid to provide an animal welfare enforcement service they were still subsidizing this from their own funds. It also looks as though they weren't spending enough money on administration (one of their kennel staff was keeping their accounts in her free time) so they couldn't easily produce exact figures for the amount spent on the inspectorate, kennels, legal fees etc. They seem to have been struggling to fund their shelter and some of the associated complaints (for example that their inspectors were reluctant to seize animals because they had no-where to put them) appear to relate to this.

As it looks as though the idea of a public enquiry into the RSPCA isn't going to go away I'm planning a series of entries on what the findings of an enquiry might be.

Just to put things in perspective, here is a chart showing prosecutions as a proportion of the work done by the RSPCA (using phone calls to the NCC as a baseline for the number of requests for help).

Is it right that a small clique of very influential people can jeopardise all the rescues of injured animals, provision of veterinary treatment and kind but firm help for people who cannot cope with the numbers of animals they have taken on?

No comments:

Post a Comment