Mulling over something that happened today made me think it might be helpful to describe an actual incident where one of our inspectors investigated a complaint and resolved it without going down the route of prosecution. I've suppressed any details that might identify individuals for obvious reasons.
Early this afternoon I had a call from our inspector asking if we could help with veterinary treatment for an animal whose owner hadn't gone to a vet when they should have done. In these circumstances the National RSPCA allows inspectors a certain amount of funding which would cover the cost of a consultation, but this owner was claiming to have no money at all (so wouldn't be able to pay for medication if the inspector arranged to book her an appointment at a local vet).
At the moment we don't normally pay for treatment at private vets (because it's so much less cost-effective than treatment at our own clinic), but in these circumstances I agreed that we'd cover the cost of medication today on the understanding that the owner would register at our clinic at the next available session. We also agreed that I'd arrange for the owner to be issued with one of the neutering vouchers which the National RSPCA gives to branches to part-pay for urgent neutering and that this would be the other condition of us giving them help with the immediate costs of first aid.
Provided the owner complies with all of this they won't need to hear any more from us.
The RSPCA's 2011 Annual Report states:
... investigations that led to prosecutions represented around one percent of the numbers of complaints investigated in 2011. The educational and advice element represents a much larger proportion of how complaints were investigated and acted upon. For instance, the success rate for issuing welfare advice by RSPCA inspectors, either in the form of informal advice or a formal warning notice, had a success rate of 92 percent in 2011. As over 11,000 such notices and advice were issued, this had an enormous impact on preventing further welfare problems in any of the animals concerned.
If the campaign against the RSPCA was to succeed in causing a permanent fall in donations and legacies to support our work it would have a lot more impact on the 99% of animals whose owners need not be prosecuted than on the 1% whose owners really must be stopped.