RSPCA acts on Wooler review recommendations

The RSPCA’s ruling Council has agreed new processes based on recommendations made by an independent review of the charity’s prosecution activity.

The RSPCA consulted externally with key stakeholders following the publication of the review last October by former Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Stephen Wooler.

RSPCA trustees this week agreed to pass cases involving traditional hunts to the police and CPS to prosecute, following initial investigation to determine the quality of the evidence.

However, trustees agreed to reserve the right to proceed with such investigations if either the police or CPS decline to take the matter up.

David Bowles, the RSPCA’s assistant director of external affairs, said: “We have listened to Stephen Wooler and have acted on his recommendation to adopt a clear policy on how we deal with cases specifically against traditional hunts.

“We will still look into allegations involving traditional hunts, before passing  the evidence to the police who will be invited to complete the investigation before handing the case to the CPS.

“If the police decline to conclude an investigation the RSPCA reserves the right to complete the investigation, and deal with any prosecution required, itself.

“We will still investigate other individuals for alleged breaches of the Hunting Act, and we have successfully used the Act previously to prosecute offenders with no hunt connections who have used their dogs to torture and terrorise wild animals.”

Trustees at yesterday’s RSPCA Council meeting also agreed to the introduction of new processes in relation to two other areas where Mr Wooler recommended some adjustment to the Society’s approach.

With regard to cases involving animal sanctuaries, the RSPCA will introduce a process whereby prosecution decisions are reviewed internally by the Head of Prosecutions and the Chief Legal Officer before any proceedings are instituted.

Trustees also agreed that the RSPCA will continue to investigate farm animal cases (including those involving members of the RSPCA Assured scheme), but cases involving serious welfare breaches may be referred to Trading Standards or Animal Health. If they decline to take the matter up, the RSPCA would reserve the right to institute proceedings itself.

The repositioning of the RSPCA’s prosecution activity affects only a very small number of cases, but responds to particular recommendations in Mr Wooler’s review, which acknowledged the valuable work of the RSPCA in enforcing the UK’s animal welfare laws. The RSPCA is continuing to work through his other recommendations and has undertaken to report on its progress 18 months after the publication of Mr Wooler’s findings. A full progress report will produced in due course.

The RSPCA is the largest rescuer of dogs in England and Wales. You can see more of our work in the Channel 5 series The Dog Rescuers each Tuesday at 8pm. Find out more at