RSPCA in bolt gun anger
Dog owners at large have been shocked and affronted this week by the death of ten German shepherd dogs at the hands of the RSPCA.
In last weeks OUR DOGS, columnist Robert Killick told of 10 GSDs that had apparently been left homeless after the death of their owner in Pontardawe, South Wales. Subsequently we received a massive amount of information and background from Jayne Shenstone of German Shepherd Rescue and the Kennel Club also became involved, with letters and press releases being issued and a huge campaign against the RSPCA on its own Facebook website.
Issuing a full press release last weekend exposing the RSPCA’s behaviour, the action group SHG (The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others Experiencing Difficulties with the RSPCA) is clearly furious with the RSPCA and see this most recent action as highly hypocritical, bearing in mind the furore that was created over the shooting of greyhounds in July last year, when by David Smith, the builder's merchant from Seaham, Co. Durham, was exposed by the Sunday Times for killing and burying greyhounds on his land. It was alleged that he had killed as many as 10,000 dogs over a period of 15 years and that his father before had provided a similar service. Smith was allegedly paid £10 for each dog he killed, he used a bolt gun to dispose of the dogs.
Despite the fact that Smith had carried out these actions against the dogs he was not considered to have broken any animal welfare laws and it was only on the grounds that Smith had buried the dogs on his land without a permit that the Environment Agency decided to privately prosecute him.
At the time, the Greyhound Action group reported that the RSPCA felt that a bolt gun, if used properly, was a humane way of killing dogs and said there was no evidence to show that Smith had killed the dogs inhumanely, therefore it was concluded that no animal cruelty laws had been broken.
Greyhound Action said at the time that they could not understand how the RSPCA could come to this conclusion.
The full SHG press release is as follows: ‘The RSPCA's Facebook page has been inundated with posts from angry animal lovers protesting about the RSPCA slaughter of ten German Shepherd dogs using a bolt pistol.
‘According to RSPCA e-mail responses relatives contacted the RSPCA after the dog's owner died and the dogs were left living on their own. An RSPCA inspector decided that the dogs were unsocialised, had a skin condition and therefore were unfit for re homing and should be put down.bThe RSPCA said that if the relatives could not find a rescue to take the dogs the RSPCA would take and euthanase them.
‘When there is a death in the family people have other, more pressing matters to deal with and are likely to be too distressed to think clearly. How are they going to find the local shelters in these circumstances?’
A furious Jayne Shenstone of German Shepherd Rescue told us: ‘There is a large network of GSD rescues in the UK, yet not one of us was contacted by either the owners or by the RSPCA. The fact that the RSPCA would not attempt to contact any other rescue suggests that they couldn't be bothered and that it was easier and cheaper to shoot the dogs.
‘The GSD is naturally very protective and territorial so will guard home and owner. With regard to the ten, their owner had died so one would assume that they would be confused and frightened. To an inexperienced person they would have appeared aggressive.
‘They should have been separated and they would have calmed down. If they had a skin condition what was it and why couldn't it be treated? GSD's that come into rescue often need experienced help which is why even other non-GSD rescues will approach us for help with re homing any that come into their care.’
The SHG has accused the RSPCA of utter hypocrisy.
Anne Kasica of the SHG continued: ‘The RSPCA used the case of David Smith who shot unwanted greyhounds with a bolt pistol to promote a massive publicity campaign aimed at obtaining increased regulation of greyhound breeding, training and racing, despite the claims that the RSPCA made use of Mr. Smith's services. Either it is acceptable to shoot excess unwanted dogs or it is not.
‘This is not the first time the RSPCA has been criticised for shooting dogs with a bolt pistol. They were fully aware after their shooting of two basset hounds in Ipswich in 2004 that the public do not find this acceptable practice.
‘If the RSPCA believes it is acceptable to shoot dogs with captive bolt pistols then they should make it quite clear that this is what will happen to dogs that come into their care.’
Ernest Vine, also of the SHG asked: ‘What qualifications does an inspector have to assess dogs in this situation? Is he a vet? The RSPCA uses the yardstick of 'failure to seek veterinary advice' in their prosecutions. How was it possible to assess the mental state of each dog in these circumstances?
‘We are told that a dog's mental capacity is that of the average two year old toddler. Imagine the reaction of a toddler who had been left alone like this and then faced with strangers. Would he be upset? Perhaps be aggressive and try to escape? Or maybe even bite? Could it be that too much is expected of dogs in difficult circumstances and that these dogs were far better behaved than they were given credit for?"
‘We are calling for some check on what happens to animals that pass through large organisations like the RSPCA. Animals are killed before their owners have a chance to claim them. Owners are told their animals are not in RSPCA shelters when they are there and in the process of being re homed.
‘For these reasons the SHG wants a cooling off period for animal sign overs to the RSPCA similar to the protections provided when buying double glazing. Perhaps 28 days would give time for people to reflect on their actions. After all, if the dogs were in need of rehabilitation that would not be an excessive time period and nothing would stop prospective adopters from registering their interests."
‘Could it be that the RSPCA is being driven by financial cuts (£54million) to seek the cheapest alternative without adequately considering the animal's welfare?’
The Kennel Club were swift to react to the story and immediately wrote to the RSPCA with copies going to key politicians. Kennel Club spokesperson Caroline Kisko told OUR DOGS: ‘We were shocked that the RSPCA took the decision to shoot ten German Shepherd Dogs with a bolt gun and question whether this can possibly be in the best interests of the animals.
‘We have written to the RSPCA, not only questioning the manner in which the dogs in this case were euthanised but also asking them to take steps to try and ensure that no dog is ever euthanised, which might still have a chance of being re-homed.
‘Local breed rescue organisations in this case have indicated their willingness to help, were they to have been approached by the RSPCA, which makes it all the more tragic.
‘Putting a dog down should only ever be a last resort and we urge the RSPCA to work much more closely with breed rescues in the future, who are often able to find the dogs within their breed new homes, with owners who will love and care for them.
‘The Kennel Club supports breed rescue organisations in the good work that they do and a full list of breed rescue clubs can be found on the Kennel Club website at www.findarescuedog.org.uk"
The full Kennel Club letter written by Caroline Kisko to John Rolls, Director of Animal Welfare Services of the RSPCA read as follows: ‘The Kennel Club has been deeply concerned to learn that the RSPCA had ‘humanely’ euthanised ten German Shepherd Dogs, by captive bolt, in Wales after their owner had passed away.
‘This case has been highlighted to us by concerned rescue organisations that specifically look after the welfare interests of German Shepherd Dogs. They have informed us that the RSPCA took this decision on the basis that it was ‘the most humane form of euthanasia’ which 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, due to the animals suffering from a severe skin condition.’ - RSPCA HQ Advice Team.
‘Firstly, the Kennel Club would question whether this was indeed the most humane form of euthanasia because the dogs would still have to be restrained in order to be shot - this has understandably angered and upset many people. Secondly, whilst the Kennel Club recognises that the RSPCA often has to deal with large numbers of dogs that need to be rehomed, we would urge you to seek the help of breed rescue organisations.
‘As an organisation which works to prevent cruelty, promote kindness and to alleviate the suffering of all animals, we fail to see how destruction can be in the best interest of the animal when specialist rescue organsations might quickly find the dog a suitable home. We would question why the RSPCA cannot work in conjunction with these organisations in the interest of animal welfare – since the likelihood of successful rehoming would be significantly higher and would reduce the number of dogs being gratuitously euthanised.
‘I would be grateful if you would clarify your current policy in relation to this issue.’ The letter was copied to a range of politicians including Elin Jones AM, Minister for Rural Affairs; Brynle Williams AM, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs; Mick Bates AM, Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs; Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Minister of State for Environment; Food & Rural Affairs, Richard Benyon MP, Shadow Minister for DEFRA and Roger Williams MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for DEFRA
Importance of rescue
Ironically this story has broken at a time when the Kennel Club is highlighting the work and importance of breed rescue as our story inside this week’s issue shows.
In fact clubs can be even more helpful by completing a simple survey to give the Kennel Club more information on the valuable work down at ground level by breed rescue. Many people involved in this story have asked why the RSPCA did not get the next of kin to contact a recognised breed rescue or in fact, the Kennel Club itself as suggested by Mrs Kisko.
In the meantime Jayne Shenstone of German Shepherd Rescue feels like big brother is watching her as her web site is apparently being constantly monitored by the RSPCA.
OUR DOGS contacted the RSPCA on Tuesday as the only statement we had seen appeared on line and had been widely circulated amongst interest groups. RSPCA Press Officer Andy Robbins re-confirmed the original statement issued on July 16th 2009: ‘We received a call on 23 June this year from a member of the public relating to 10 German Shepherd dogs at an address in Pontardawe, in South Wales. 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 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, including the Dogs Trust, 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, due to the animals suffering from a severe skin condition.
‘The inspector euthanased the dogs using a captive bolt. After a discussion between eight officers, this was decided to be the most humane method. It was also the most suitable as the dogs were too dangerous to approach for a vet to administer a sedative, to allow for a lethal injection.
‘The dogs were taken outside into the garden of the house on a grasper, given a few moments of exercise (it is unlikely they had been outside in weeks, if not months) and then the inspector used a captive bolt.
‘The house was in a remote and isolated situation, away from any other properties. Each dog was euthanased away from the rest of the dogs which were kept in the house. They would have been unable to hear the captive bolt being used as it is a very quiet method.
‘The dogs were only handled for a very short amount of time, on the grasper, and stress was kept to an absolute minimum. Nobody was injured and the dogs appeared to be oblivious to the fact that this was anything other than being taken into the garden.
‘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. The decision was not made lightly and, as always, it was made with the best interests of the animal at heart.’
Many will find the handling of this tragic case by the RSPCA hard to bear as the destruction of these ten dogs surely could have been avoided if the right organisations had been contacted. It seems incredible that little or no effort seems to have been put in to contacting any GSD rescue and rather than put the onus on the next of kin, surely the RSPCA has a duty to protect, not destroy dogs like this.
At the same time such activities hardly lend support to the RSPCA’s high moral stance in backing out of Crufts and accusing dog breeders of cruel practices. The phrase the pot calling the kettle black comes to mind!
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