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RSPCA may face cruelty charges

Police to investigate ‘bolt gun’ killings


THE POLICE look likely to investigate the RSPCA over serious allegations of animal cruelty, following the ‘inhumane’ destruction of 10 German Shepherd Dogs with a captive bolt gun, a weapon used to stun livestock in abattoirs.

The well publicised case of the 10 dogs hit the press shortly after their owner died, following which the RSPCA was called in to help with the dogs. Following an inspection by the officers on the scene, it was decided that the dogs were aggressive and in poor condition, and also that they had been kept indoors for some time before the death of their owner.

However, since the June killings, anger has been directed at the Society from dog lovers both in and out of the show scene, and condemnation of the use of the bolt guns, deemed "inhumane" and "unacceptable" for the destruction of dogs by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), has risen steadily, with over 5,000 people petitioning for the use of bolt guns to be banned.

In September, German Shepherd Rescue (which rehouses between 200 and 300 GSDs every year), made a formal complaint to South Wales Police about the incident.

Jayne Shenstone, founder of the rescue, has worked tirelessly since June to bring the case against the RSPCA to light. Soon after setting up a dedicated website, Jayne received communications from the RSPCA to inform her that the letters RSPCA were in fact copyrighted, and her use of them on her website was contravening copyright laws. Ms Shenstone also reported hundreds of ‘hits; on her website from the RSPCA Headquarters, whose monitoring of the site was picked up by a piece of software on her computer.

In a letter from the South Wales Police, written by Inspector Mark Hobrough, it is stated that: ‘In relation to your correspondence received on 18th September 2009 can I please assure that this matter is receiving our thorough attention. I am sorry that I have no update to provide you at present and can only state the matter is undergoing investigation.’

Treatable

Ms Shenstone, who contacted OUR DOGS shortly after the incident, said that the dogs had a treatable condition called sarcoptic mange, a skin disease caused by a mite infection.

She said at the time: ‘The RSPCA did not consult us or any other dog rescue centre. There was no vet present and there was no diagnosis. The dogs did not need to be killed, especially in such a brutal way. The RSPCA has claimed it's the only time they have heard of such a weapon being used like this, but captive bolts are routinely issued to inspectors.

‘We believe that serious offences have been committed and that they merit charges for both the RSPCA and the officers responsible.

‘If anyone else had killed ten dogs in such a cruel way the RSPCA would have been the first to prosecute."

The RSPCA, however, says that it would have been impossible to rehome the dogs and there was no alternative to having them destroyed.

However, the problem still remains that instead of being put down with an injection, the dogs were caught with a pole which consists of a noose at the end of a stick, before being dragged outside the premises and shot in the head with the bolt gun. A bolt gun fires a metal bar about three inches long into the animal's brain. Its uses are widely known in the killing and ‘stunning’ of large animals which are ready for slaughter, or large animals which are deemed to be a danger, in which case the gun may be used to still the animal before a lethal injection is delivered.

According to the WSPA, use of the captive bolt gun to put down domestic animals is unacceptable. because of the difficulty of ensuring a ‘clean kill’.

Stifled

Andrew Meads of the Safewings Wildlife Conservation Projects told us: ‘Remarkably even though it appears that the RSPCA and certain media appeared to try to stifle the outrage regarding the RSPCA’s killing of ten GSDs with a bolt gun, the public have demanded a Police investigation.

‘This horrific incident was mentioned on both BBC Radio 4 and at 1.50am on BBC Five Live, and it is after the many complaints to the Chief Constable of South Wales Police now known that they are investigating the RSPCA and its inspectors in relation to ten acts of alleged cruelty to German Shepherd dogs, and other welfare offences. The case reference number is: Ref: DCC/MT 2883
‘It is refreshing to know that complaints about the disgraceful treatment of these ten poor German Shepherd dogs by the RSPCA and its employees have been received. And from the aspect of all animal lovers that it is being treated very seriously, by South Wales Police and hopefully with the same vigour as that of an RSPCA prosecution.

‘It is yet to be confirmed as to whether any RSPCA employees have been suspended pending the results of the police investigation into their activities, but surely this must be a serious consideration under the circumstances.

‘There should not be unaccountability and media blackout for anyone or any organisation that has serious issues to address and if the RSPCA is convicted of a criminal offence of cruelty to the animals in their understanding s.9 Offence of failing to cater for the animals' ‘psychological and ethnological needs’ then it would clearly place their position as a prosecuting authority for this specific type of offence in question.

‘Animal welfare must not ever be compromised by ignorance or callous actions as stated in the new Animal Welfare Act and no one should be above the law especially those that claim to set out and enforce the animal welfare laws. For once let us see justice prevail.’

Anne Kasica from The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others Experiencing Difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) told OUR DOGS: ‘It appears that South Wales Police are treating this in a professional an objective manner. We look forward to the outcome of their investigations and interviews with the RSPCA."

‘We would comment that the RSPCA have recently been charging even more people -especially the young, sick and the old with new offences under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The RSPCA spent huge sums lobbying for the AWA, which criminalises any failure to meet animals' needs.

In question

‘In comparison to the RSPCA's treatment of these ten German Shepherd dogs, on 14 October 2009, farmer Ronald Norcliffe was fined £150 for failing to meet his cows 'psychological and ethological needs' following a prosecution by Kirklees Council. His failure was not providing his cattle with an electric light in the cow shed even though Mr. Norcliffe had no electricity in his farmhouse."

‘Should the RSPCA be convicted of a criminal offence of cruelty to the animals then it would clearly place their position as a prosecuting authority for this specific type of offence in question.’
The RSPCA has admitted that it did not approach animal rescue shelters for help in finding homes for the animals.

A spokeswoman said: "The RSPCA will co-operate fully with any police investigation. But as yet we have not been told by the police that we are being investigated. The police contacted us several weeks ago to ask for some information, which we provided, but they did not state that we were under investigation. It was an absolutely extreme case. The bolt gun is certainly not used routinely by our officers.’

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