Love them or hate them we need the RSPCA

RSPCA officer cradling dog in arms.

RSPCA should aim to go back to basics.

The RSPCA are in the process of closing some of their animal shelters, hospitals and clinics and allegedly making at least ten percent of their administration and front line staff redundant according to Society statements and media reports. This has obviously caused alarm and distress to their staff and several petitions have been started which are already attracting many signatures. It could be viewed as a knee jerk reaction to the present financial climate caused by the pandemic, but it could be just an opportune time to restructure the charity once again.

We seem to have a love hate relationship with the RSPCA, as many do with the Police, and there will always be sections of society and organisations happy to criticise and who want to reign them in but in the interests of all the abused animals of England and Wales we cannot do without them. This is because they are the only agency or charity actively trying to prevent abuse before it happens and taking 0ver 90% of all animal cruelty prosecutions.

RSPCA have always been evolving and restructuring

The RSPCA throughout its history, and particularly in the last fifty years, has always adapted to changing society needs, circumstances and attitudes whether financial or not. I have been involved with the Society on and off since 1970 and have seen it all before. Back then there was only one hospital and that was a converted house, the only animal shelters within striking distance of London were the Mayhew Home and Southall cattery.

At the end of the sixties the Society still owned hundreds of houses in which their inspectors lived, answered their own phones, organised there own day, were part of the community, had kennels and cages in the back garden to temporarily hold animals and were virtually on 24 hour call. Then to meet financial and changing society needs they were all sold, call centres were introduced and the inspectorate was regionalised.

Throughout the seventies they closed dozens of “one man clinics” in the poorer areas of London like the east end, south and north London or like the Mayhew Home transferred them to other charities. They closed their central night emergency service to much outcry that had provided vital rescue and treatment services during the city’s impoverished decades. Even their grand headquarters building in Jermyn Street was closed, sold and demolished when the Society relocated to the countryside.

In the next few decades they continued to adapt their services introducing animal collection drivers and animal welfare officers to take some of the workload off inspectors. The Society and its Branch animal shelters took fewer unwanted pets from owners and concentrated on homing those animals seized or collected by their staff. The Society has always changed to meet present demands.

The RSPCA sometimes loses sight of its roots

Along the way no doubt the Society has made mistakes particularly when they have lost sight of their roots and core objectives and insisted on establishing a department for everything connected with animal welfare rather than concentrating on what they do best. It seems they are beginning to realise this and are leaving certain aspects to the dozens of other charities who carry out similar work such as the Cats Protection and Dogs Trust who rehome animals and those that treat animals of the poor like the PDSA and Blue Cross. The RSPCA fulfills a unique and important role that no other charity dares to get involved in and that is protecting and preventing animals from ill-treatment and they must concentrate on this.

It is always terrible for people to lose their livelihood and the work they thoroughly enjoy and believe in but unfortunately times and circumstances change. But hopefully the Society will in the future avoid decreasing their front line activities as without adequate services more animals will undoubtedly suffer. They have always managed to survive controversy, criticism, upturns and downturns and they hopefully they will continue to do so because there are so many animals out there that depend on them.

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Author: John Brookland

John Brookland is an animal welfarist, and amateur historian. He authors two popular blogs: and with a monthly worldwide readership of thousands. He has written seven books on his exploits helping animals, also on social history and a book on the war horses of World War One. During his long and varied career which has taken him round the world, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into most animal welfare issues which he uses to write his blogs. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places before they and he disappear.