Memorandum submitted by the Self Help
Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others Experiencing Difficulties
with the RSPCA
1. There are no safeguards in this Bill
that will protect people's civil and legal rights.
2. There are no protections put in place
to ensure that prosecutors who breach people's civil and legal
rights will be penalised, and that evidence so obtained will be
3. The result of this legislation will be
to reduce the number of people prepared to keep animals of any
kind because they have privacy concerns and because they are not
prepared to put themselves at risk of attracting the attention
of the RSPCA whose unlawful activities are well documented, and
who are feared by many animal keepers
4. If there had been any obvious failure
in the previous legislation, it would have been corrected very
quickly. The RSPCA political campaigns machinery would have swung
into action demanding immediate change.
5. The only acceptable reason to change
existing animal welfare laws that are known and understood by
the vast majority of the British public would be if there was
any real evidence that those laws were ineffective. There is none.
The only claims have been from organisations such as the RSPCA
whose prosecutions are tainted by their political campaigns.
6. One only has to look at attempts by various
bodies to produce guidelines for their members in relation to
the powers that have been granted to the RSPCA with the award
of Prosecutor Status under the 2000 Amendment to the 1911 Act
to see that it is impossible to provide a set of simple guidelines.
It will be equally impossible to do so for this proposed legislation.
7. The result will be confusion and an animal
keeping public who, instead of supporting animal welfare in general,
will become increasingly isolated and opposed to its implementation.
8. The very fact that the RSPCA are campaigning
politically makes them unsuitable for the position of prosecutors.
The Code for Crown Prosecutors s 2.2 requires prosecutors to be
free from political bias. This means that every prosecution launched
by the RSPCA will be open to challenge on the basis that it was
9. Each successful prosecution provides
free advertising for the RSPCA. They have a vested interest in
obtaining successful prosecutions.
10. Prosecution and investigation must be
split. The right to prosecute was taken away from the police and
given to the Crown Prosecution Service on the grounds that having
been directly involved in the investigation the police would have
too great an interest in obtaining a successful prosecution.
11. How much more applicable is this concern
when applied to the RSPCA who are often campaigning to have the
very activities of the people they are investigating made illegal?
12. Bearing in mind that animal welfare
issues often attract "people with a mission" who are
the very opposite of objective and impartial, we consider the
implementation of proper protections to be paramount before any
additional regulating legislation is considered.
13. There is nothing special in legal terms
about this legislation. Why can't the CPS deal with it? They deal
with much more complex matters. Drink driving legislation involves
back calculations of alcohol levels, and incorporates the problem
that the police explanations to the defendant at each stage must
14. This appears to be setting up a biased
prosecution service in that only those who have prosecuted under
the 1911 Act can apply for contracts.
15. The legislation should include a list
of what is not commercial. Otherwise there is a danger a court
will include it.
16. S 1(10)(a)(iii) will make a parent or
guardian criminally responsible for their child's actions if that
child is under 16. I doubt if most parents would expect to go
to jail if their youngster went on a shoplifting spree, or painted
graffiti. Indeed, it begs the question of how a parent is to keep
a child under total control 24/7.
17. There are far too many grey areas. What
is reasonable to the general public may not be reasonable to organisations
campaigning for Animal Rights agendas, such as the RSPCA.
18. S 6 Without further discussion, regulations
can be imposed and enforced covering a wide range of situations,
including farming, market, transport, slaughter, training, type
of accommodation, materials used in accommodation, facilities
provided, and the animals diets. Worse, licensing and registration
can be imposed on ministerial whim, as can the prohibition of
the keeping of specified kinds of animals. And for all of this,
there is the provision that fees or charges can be made. Animal
keepers should be very wary of the financial implications of this.
19. The imposition of a 51 week sentence
in order to prevent the option of a jury trial is disgraceful
when prosecutions of this type have the potential to destroy the
defendant's life, irrespective of whether they are found guilty
20. S 7 Whose codes of practice are going
to be imposed? Those of knowledgeable keepers, or those which
ignore the real needs of the animal but are supported by the politically
motivated RSPCA? If the Secretary of State need only consult "such
persons as he sees fit", then we have a serious problem.
21. S 11 To say that an animal can be taken
by the authorities if it is likely to suffer if its circumstances
do not change means that putting a small animal in suitably sized
living accommodation where it will feel safe and secure will put
the owner at risk because the animal would suffer if it was not
moved to larger accommodation as it grows. So the animal must
suffer the psychological stress of unsuitable accommodation in
order to avoid the potential of suffering.
22. The removal of the need for a vet to
certify the removal of an animal means that unqualified "inspectors"
and police officers are going to make judgements when they may
have no knowledge of the general needs of the type of animal concerned,
or the specific needs of the particular animal.
23. Question: Is legal aid going to cover
these applications to the courts for extensions of time to keep
the animal, or for the return of the animal? How can an inspector
be given the right to seize an animal and then keep it on the
owner's premises? (S 12) This is a breach of the owner's human
rights of privacy, to own property.
24. Explanatory notes 53. The anticipation
that it will be rare to need to exercise the powers to take possession
of and retain an animal before the arrival of a vet is ludicrous.
If this provision is to remain, there must be a protecting provision
that nullifies the authority and the consequences if it can be
shown that any reasonable inspector would not have so acted.
25. Explanatory notes 55. Why should the
power extend to other animals beyond those which are believed
to be currently suffering? Taking a whole herd of cattle into
custody because one or two are sub-standard puts an incredible
burden of cost onto the defendant and could be seen as an attempt
to force him to plead guilty or agree to the giving up of the
animals under duress in an attempt to cut the final costs.
26. S 12 appears to give the right to recover
costs whether or not the owner is found guilty.
27. S 13 gives an inspector or constable
the right to kill an animal without the presence of a vet if he
believes it is impracticable to wait for a vet.
28. S 14 gives power of entry to search
for animals reasonably believed to be on the premises, suffering,
or likely to suffer if their circumstances do not change. He may
use reasonable force, even without a warrant if he believes entry
is required before it can be obtained and executed, (although
an inspector may only do so if accompanied by a constable between
11.00 pm and 5.00 am) Theoretically this will not apply to a private
dwelling, but we shall undoubtedly see a series of cases which
will blur the definitions of commercial and private.
29. The human rights implications of the
above three sections alone are outrageous.
30. S 16(2)(e) provides for the disposal
of an animal by the prosecutor other than by way of sale. There
appear to be no safeguards to prevent the abuse of this facility
or the "disposal" of animals to friends or business
acquaintances of the prosecutor.
31. Bearing in mind that subsection (4)
states that the protection provided by subsection (3), the right
of the owner to be heard by the court, does not apply if the court
is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable to communicate
with the owner, there is again great potential for abuse of the
provisions of the Act by a determined prosecutor.
32. S 16(6) makes it an offence to obstruct
a prosecutor or a person authorised by him in the exercise of
the powers conferred by an order under subsection (1). Combining
subsection (6) with subsection (7) which provides that an order
made under subsection (1) ceases to have effect if the case is
dropped or ended in some way, but protects anything done before
the order ceases to have effect, it is clear that there is danger
of a determined prosecutor who wishes to do maximum damage to
the defendant waiting until animals have been disposed of before
dropping a weak case.
33. Explanatory note 89 and 90. There seems
to be no protecting provision to ensure that costs incurred by
the prosecutor are reasonable.
34. S 19(2)(a) permits the prosecutor or
anyone authorised by him to enter the premises for the purpose
of exercising the powers conferred by the order to tag or mark
an animal. This is effectively providing a power to enter and
search with no proper protection against abuse.
35. What provisions are in place to prevent
a prosecutor marking a valuable animal in some permanent or invasive
way that destroys its value?
36. S 20(1) provides for reimbursement of
prosecutors reasonable expenses incurred in the exercise of the
powers conferred by the order.
37. Question: Why is there no protection
given to the defendant found innocent. Why should he be expected
to pay if the prosecutor has made a mistake? What is to prevent
the RSPCA submitting their usual "gold plated" expenses?
38. It seems strange that under s 21 there
is no power for sale of animals seized by a constable from a person
who has been arrested for an offence under s 2(1)(g) or (h), where
he suspects that the animals have been used in fighting. Is it
that unlike the RSPCA, the police have no wish to make a profit?
39. Explanatory note 91. How can "others"
be given the power to arrest?
40. S 22 changes the criteria for costs.
Costs are now claimable from the arrested person, not the owner,
as a civil debt. There is still no provision for an innocent person
to not be responsible for costs incurred.
41. Question: Why is it that in relation
to fighting animals the powers are still vested in the police?
There is no let out for the police here. They are still going
to be at the beck and call of the RSPCA.
42. Explanatory note 111. The result of
preventing a disqualified person from having any further input
with the care, transport etc. of animals means that it is effectively
confiscating the business of a convicted person, or ensuring he
will be driven to bankruptcy. It will make family life impossible
and intolerable. This is draconian and inhumane.
43. Explanatory note 134. There is no right
of appeal if the court orders destruction in the interests of
the welfare of the animal. This is outrageous. We all know that
one expert may disagree with another.
44. S 31 enables the destruction of an animal
if the court is satisfied it constitutes a danger to public safety,
or that it may be used for the commission of further such offences.
This is carte blanche for the RSPCA to demand the deaths of dozens
of innocent dogs simply because of their breed.
45. S 34. Is there going to be any legal
aid available for people to use this section in applying for their
disqualification period to end? The provision that the applicant
can be ordered to pay all or part of the costs of the application
s 34(3)(b) is draconian and designed to discourage such applications.
46. 149 of the explanatory notes states
that even if the application is successful, the applicant can
have the costs awarded against him.
47. It is utterly wrong and a disgrace to
any fair system of justice that people should be priced out of
obtaining their rights and a fair hearing.
48. No doubt the general public will be
thrilled to know that the RSPCA are being empowered by s 36 to
inspect and copy any records held by a licence holder, and so
will know exactly what animals they have bought and where they
are likely to be found.
49. Explanatory notes 154 provides power
to access his computer and copy its contents. This is a breach
of the right to privacy.
50. Urgent Question: S 37 entitles an inspector
to enter any premises on which he believes a licence holder whose
activities have not been confined to a particular premises may
be carrying on his activity. Why does it not exclude private dwellings
as does s 38 for farm animals.
51. Explanatory note 156 states that no
offence need be suspected, an inspection may be simply to check
that the licence conditions are being complied with, and they
may inspect where they believe a licensable activity is being
carried out without a licence.
52. S 43 extends the time limits to three
years for a prosecution to commence. The defendant is already
put at a severe disadvantage by tardy prosecutors. How will anyone
remember what happened three years ago? How will they obtain expert
53. It is outrageous to accept the word
of the prosecutor for the date he claims to have discovered the
offence. S 43(2).
54. S 45 provides the ultimate get out clause
for misbehaviour by inspectors. It is virtually impossible to
prove that someone's action was not done in "good faith"
and will enable vindictive harassment of vulnerable people.
55. No RSPCA inspector should be given the
power to stop and search vehicles. This should remain firmly in
the hands of the police only. S 47.
56. S 54(2)(iii) provides that any undomesticated
animal that is temporarily under the control of man comes under
the Act could mean that any live caught rabbit, rat, etc could
lead to a prosecution. If additional types of animal are added,
any child collecting a few snails could become vulnerable.
57. Schedule 1
58. It should be an absolute requirement that
people purporting to exercise the powers in this act must provide
proof of identity and outline the purpose for which the powers
exist. No ordinary person is going to realise they should ask
59. There appear to be no safeguards to
prevent the person exercising this power from taking inappropriate
people or equipment onto the premises.
60. The power to require assistance goes
over and above that which is granted to the police. It is effectively
enslaving animal keepers and forcing them to take actions they
may genuinely believe to be detrimental to their animal's interests.
It could force someone who practises homeopathic or other alternative
treatments to enable that treatment regime to be destroyed by
the application of medicines to which their animal might already
have proved allergic.
9. It should be an absolute requirement
that a record of what has been seized is provided or left on the
premises. There should not be a need for the affected persons
to request it.
61. How can the Bill be a result of the
public consultation when the majority of interested parties who
took part did not want any powers given to the RSPCA?
62. It is claimed that the Act is compliant
with Human Rights requirements provided that the "powers
are exercised in a proportionate manner" 221. The track record
of the courts under s 78 of PACE in permitting unlawfully obtained
evidence is not good and gives great cause for concern that there
will be many injustices perpetrated by the RSPCA under this legislation.
63. Purpose and Intended Effect of Measure
64. Ss 4-8. Repeated requests have been
made to the RSPCA for clarification of their prosecution figures.
They have declined to supply these details.
66. The claim in s 32 is that the legislation
will be clearer and simpler, making compliance easier. The way
the Bill is worded makes this a nonsense.
68. S 37 will people who have accepted a
caution be put on the proposed database of offenders?
69. A general observation on the imposition
of licences is that unless the licence can be shown to address
a clear welfare issue, it is merely another drain on the resources
of a business and another bit of red tape designed to create offences
purely as a result of accidental breach of the licensing requirements
70. The increased costs will destroy many
small businesses and lead to homeless animals.
71. How does this further the cause of animal
72. Age to purchase pets
73. Young people are finding that more and
more activities are denied to them simply because the age limits
are being arbitrarily raised. Where are the figures that show
youngsters have been consistently proved to be incapable of being
responsible for purchased animals? How are these young people
to cope when they turn 16-18 and find themselves suddenly thrust
into the world of adulthood with all of its liabilities and responsibilities
when they have had no experience and no chance of preparing in
incremental steps as they were under previous legislation?
75. This seems to be aimed at travelling
people and will ensure they are no longer able to keep animals
as they have been traditionally kept by them for generations.
76. Dog Tracks
77. How can regulation by NGRC be imposed
on those tracks that have chosen not to be members of this organisation?
The costs are going to endanger the existence of many smaller
25 August 2004