Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of the RSPCA, has stepped down with immediate effect after serving just over a year in the role.
Cooper became chief executive of the animal welfare charity in April 2016, ending a period for the charity of more than two years without a permanent leader.
He joined the RSPCA in 2013 as chief executive of RSPCA Assured, the RSPCA’s ethical food label, before becoming director of corporate development in January 2016.
Cooper took on the chief executive role after a difficult period for the charity during which it was heavily criticised in some sections of the national press for the successful prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt and the removal and euthanisation of a number of animals.
Gavin Grant, the charity’s previous full-time chief executive, stepped down in 2014 for health reasons after serving just over two years. Three trustees of the charity also stepped aside last year in the wake of concerns about how the charity was being run.
In an interview with Third Sector last year after his appointment as chief executive, Cooper said he wanted to provide the society with a clear sense of direction after difficult period.
"The absence of a full leadership team and a permanent chief executive means we've been dealing with immediate priorities only," Cooper told Third Sector. "So the first thing is to take stock and say where we want to go."
A source close to the situation told Third Sector that Cooper had been asked to leave immediately last week, but the charity said in a statement that he had chosen to move on.
A spokeswoman for the charity could not confirm whether Cooper had received a payout as part of the terms of his departure.
The RSPCA said in a statement: "After four years with the society and over a year as chief executive of the RSPCA, it is with regret that we announce that Jeremy has decided to move on to pursue other business opportunities. Jeremy has been an asset to the team and has contributed to the continued success of the RSPCA."
The charity said that Michael Ward, its chief operating officer, would become interim chief executive with immediate effect.