The RSPCA has secured an apology from the Daily Mail two months after the newspaper ran articles incorrectly claiming that the animal welfare charity had wrongly rehomed one cat and unnecessarily euthanised another.
The apology, printed on page two of the newspaper on Monday and online here was issued after the charity’s lawyers sent a letter to the Daily Mail outlining its concerns about stories the newspaper ran in August under the respective headlines "RSPCA is at it again! Cat saved then put to sleep" and "RSPCA rehomed our missing cat and refuse to tell us where he is".
The first article, dated 14 August, claimed that the RSPCA had rescued a cat called Kitty, which belonged to a devoted owner, and killed it. The second, published on 22 August, claimed that the charity had found a cat called Booba and rehomed him without trying to find the animal’s owners.
The apology says: "We now accept that the RSPCA were not responsible in either case and apologise for suggesting otherwise."
The Daily Mail updated the article about Kitty on 18 August but did not take it down. The article about Booba was amended on 26 August to blame Cats Protection instead.
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, told Third Sector that the charity made a legal complaint because the articles were factually inaccurate.
Kitty was put to sleep by a vet because she became extremely ill. Her owner is understood to have told the charity that they no longer owned the animal.
In Booba’s case, the charity says it passed the animal on to the Cats Protection, which rehomed him after the RSPCA had thoroughly searched for his owners. The animal is still with its new owners, but Booba’s owner has since claimed that her cat has come home, suggesting it was all a case of mistaken identity.
A spokeswoman for Cats Protection said the charity was not seeking an apology because the facts reported by the Mail were not technically inaccurate.
Speaking about the apology granted to the RSPCA, Bowles said: "The Mail decided to put it on page two, which is good, because a lot of time an apology will either appear on the website or on an inside page.
"However, the people who read it in the first place will have made their minds up about us. Trying to get inside their minds to correct the image they’ve got is difficult."
He said it was "par for the course" that it had taken two months to receive an apology because it normally takes time for newspapers to apologise for print stories. "You can get the online version corrected fairly quickly, which is good," he said, "although if it appears in The Mail on Sunday, what they tend to do is say they have no staff working that day and you can’t get it corrected until the Monday."
Bowles said the charity was looking at ways of counteracting what he perceived was a campaign by the Mail against the RSPCA.
He urged other charities facing inaccurate media coverage to write to the newspaper concerned and request a correction.
"You have to stand up if they get something factually wrong because otherwise it’s your brand image and therefore your fundraising and the success of your organisation that’s at stake," he said.
A spokeswoman for the charity said the RSPCA had had numerous corrections in the Mail for inaccurate stories this year and that some online stories were taken down after publication.