Being accused of animal cruelty by the RSPCA can be very distressing. If you have been charged with an animal cruelty offence involving an animal, or you’re under investigation for animal cruelty, it is critical that you contact our RSPCA solicitors who specialise in this area.
The criminal defence team at Qamar Solicitors are experienced in RSPCA cases and will give you sympathetic, expert legal help. We will also represent you and aggressively defend you when necessary.
It is important to understand that you have no legal obligation to answer any questions put to you by the RSPCA and we strongly recommend you contact us immediately for advice before speaking to its representatives. You are entitled to legal representation during any interviews with the RSPCA to protect your interests. We can provide this for you.
What powers does the RSPCA have?
The RSPCA has the legal right to investigate suspected animal cruelty including, for example, visiting your home following anonymous ‘tip offs’. It also has the power to privately prosecute people under laws such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, the RSPCA does not have special powers or powers similar to those of the Police. They do not, for instance, have any special powers to arrest anyone.
The RSPCA has attracted negative attention in the media over the last two years for its aggressive tactics toward animal owners who have been prosecuted by the RSPCA in circumstances where, for instance, less heavy-handed means could have achieved a far more desirable result for the individuals and animals concerned.
The RSPCA has also attracted criticism for allegedly misusing funds donated by members of the public to bring ‘vexatious’ prosecutions specifically for ‘political gain’. An independent review of the RSPCA’s prosecution powers could lead to the charity losing its power to prosecute following various controversial cases and we will be watching closely to see what happens. In the meantime, the RSPCA’s power to prosecute remains; and our team has the experience to aggressively defend our clients against unmerited RSPCA investigations and prosecutions.
Prosecutions under the 2006 Act can also be brought against individuals by the Local Authorities and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). We have the expertise to defend in these cases.
Defending our clients
Animal cruelty cases can be difficult, particularly because they involve an unusual area of law. In addition, defendants who are successfully prosecuted can attract unwanted media attention if it hits the headlines, possibly leading to hate mail and other abuse from some members of the public. For this reason, we work to bring our clients’ cases to a swift and quiet conclusion wherever possible so that our clients can get on with their lives.
To have the best possible chance of avoiding conviction, you need specialist solicitors who have as much expert knowledge in animal welfare law and animal cruelty cases as the RSPCA or DEFRA will be in prosecuting its case against you.
This means instructing solicitors who:
understand the law and how the courts approach these cases
understand how veterinary science interacts with the law
can effectively question the prosecution’s expert witnesses, and
can effectively instruct your own expert witnesses to support your defence
What might happen?
RSPCA prosecutions can have a devastating impact. If a prosecution is successful, the sanctions that could be imposed by the court include:
Seizure and possibly the destruction of your pet/s
Up to six months in prison
Disqualification from keeping animals (for a term of years or for your lifetime)
A community based penalty (for instance, a supervision order)
Absolute or conditional discharge
In addition, you could be ordered to pay the RSPCA’s costs of bringing the prosecution (which can run into thousands of pounds); and you will be responsible for paying the RSPCA’s costs for boarding fees if your animal is seized. The period during which boarding fees are incurred could be many months and the costs can quickly accumulate.
We can discuss the matter of costs with the RSPCA, negotiating a fair costs order should you lose the case.
How can we help?
If you have been accused of animal cruelty or are under investigation by the RSPCA; or if you have been asked to give evidence in an RSPCA prosecution, contact our criminal defence and RSPCA defence team for urgent advice. Taking prompt, robust legal advice from the outset will help you to keep any potential damage and financial losses to a minimum.
All RSPCA prosecutions are conducted in the Magistrates' Court, see our Funding section for more information in relation to our fees.