Rescue group threatened with legal action
THE RSPCA has allegedly threatened legal action against a German Shepherd Dog rescue network (GSR), following a campaign against the charity for destroying 10 German shepherd dogs with a boltgun in Wales.
Since the story broke, there has been ongoing controversy in animal welfare circles across the UK since the incident at Pontardawe, near Swansea, in June, when the dogs were put down after their owner died.
The RSPCA says inspectors decided to kill the dogs with captive bolt pistols of a kind used in abattoirs to minimise suffering. However, campaigners using internet websites have used what have been labelled ‘emotive tactics’, one website showed a blood-soakd version of the RSPCA’s logo.
Now the charity has threatened one group, the German Shepherd Rescue network (GSR) with legal action for breach of copyright involving the logo.
The RSPCA has also moved to have campaign-related material it regards as offensive taken off the social networking site Facebook. A solicitor’s letter sent to Jayne Shenstone of GSR states that the RSPCA owns the trademark of the acronym RSPCA “in upper and lower case”.
Ms shenstone first became suspicious about her campaign following an unprecented amount of ‘hits’ on her website. Following the installation of some computor software, she was surprised to see that the RSPCA headquarters, based in Horsham, were visiting the site for up to 20 minutes a day starting in late August.
Anne Kasica of the organisation called the Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others Experiencing Difficulties with the RSPCA (SHG) said: “If the state of our law is now, as the RSPCA’s highly-paid lawyers claim, that one needs permission from the RSPCA to use the acronym ‘RSPCA’, then no criticism of this political and highly-secretive charity will ever see the light of day.
“The acronym ‘RSPCA’ has been in public use for years and we believe that people will keep using it. To do otherwise would mean the end of the right to comment – there would be no more cartoons in your local paper, no more columns and no more internet blogs.”
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “We received a call on June 23 this year from a member of the public relating to 10 german shepherd dogs at an address in Pontardawe. The caller said the dogs’ owner, a relative, had died and the dogs had been living on their own.
“An RSPCA inspector visited the premises that day and assessed the animals. The inspector took the decision that none of the dogs were at all suitable for rehoming due to concerns about their aggressive behaviour and lack of socialisation with people. The dogs were also suffering from a severe skin condition. We explained to the next-of- kin that they should contact other rescue groups for help. The next-of-kin were made fully aware that if the RSPCA became involved, the dogs would be euthanased.
“The owner’s next-of-kin later contacted the RSPCA again and said they had been turned down by other charities who were unwilling to take on the animals and they signed over the dogs, fully aware of what would happen.
“A decision was made following a discussion between eight RSPCA officers that the most humane form of euthanasia would be to use a captive bolt. This would minimise distress to the dogs, while also being the safest method for those people responsible for dealing with the animals. Restraining the dogs and then shaving a limb to prepare for a lethal injection would have caused these animals unnecessary suffering.
“It is the RSPCA’s raison d’être to prevent cruelty to animals, and it was decided this sad, but ultimately necessary, outcome for the dogs was the best way to prevent the animals any further suffering.”
Defending the threat of legal action, the spokeswoman said: “It is important to protect the RSPCA’s logo, which had been altered in an offensive way. We also took action to remove offensive material from websites that are seen by children.”
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