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Disabled owners overlooked?

In an article featured in Disability Now magazine it is claimed that people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, are being prosecuted by the RSPCA when it would be much better if the charity took a more softly, softly approach and offered to help disabled people in difficulties.

Anna Bird of the charity Mind comments that “it is worrying that so many people with mental health problems appear to be being prosecuted by the RSPCA. It is only right that if someone commits a crime that they are held to account, but when there are compelling underlying factors then this should be taken into consideration. People who are experiencing mental distress can be particularly vulnerable”.

The article goes on to highlight cases reported by the Crown Prosecution Service such as Betty McDiarmid, a 75-year-old wheelchair-user with diabetes, who was raided twice by the RSPCA. The first raid resulted in a local vet concluding that none of the animals were suffering. However, a couple of weeks later, the RSPCA deemed another raid necessary and brought in its own vet, who concluded that every one of Mrs McDiarmid’s animals were suffering and should be seized. The RSPCA decided to prosecute, but the trial was halted when Mrs McDiarmid became too ill for it to proceed. She died soon after her trial.

The article also claims that as people involved in RSPCA prosecutions which are brought privately suffer more because the public spotlight of media attention from TV and local papers often portrays these people as wilfully neglecting their animals and causing cruelty, which leads further abuses, from animal rights activists sending threats and others who truly believe they are acting in the best interests of the animals by writing to the people or calling them on the telephone saying what they think of them.

As one of the few charities to bring private prosecutions the RSPCA have been criticised in the past for prosecutions brought to court. The Crown Prosecution Service will not usually support a prosecution unless it is deemed to, be of a serious nature or other circumstances demand it. The code for Crown Prosecutors states: “A prosecution is less likely to be needed if [it] is likely to have a bad effect on the victim’s physical or mental health, always bearing in mind the seriousness of the offence; the defendant is elderly, or is, or was at the time of the offence, suffering from mental or physical ill health, unless the offence is serious or there is a real possibility that it may be repeated… Crown prosecutors must balance the desirability of diverting a defendant who is suffering from significant mental or physical ill health with the need to safeguard the general public.”

At the time of going to press, neither the RSPCA nor Disability Now, have got back to Our Dogs with comments. Our Dogs will be following this up.