The RSPCA has filed a legal complaint against The Sun after the newspaper ran a front-page news story today claiming the charity spent £1m on a cattery that looks after only 12 cats.
The article, under the headline "RSPCA’s £1m to look after 12 cats", also claimed that the home in Headcorn, Kent, was inhabited rent-free by Katie Toms, daughter of Daphne Harris, chair of the RSPCA, although it said no improper behaviour was alleged.
In a statement released today, the RSPCA said lawyers had written to The Sun saying the article was inaccurate and unlawful and asking that it not be republished.
The letter said the branch in question had rehomed 1,300 cats and contributed to the veterinary bills of 1,600 cats in the area. It was bought six years ago because of a shortage of feline care facilities in the area at the time, the legal letter said.
The news comes after the Charity Commission issued an updated statement yesterday saying it would take regulatory action against the RSPCA if it did not modernise its governance. The charity’s chief executive Jeremy Cooper left with immediate effect last week after only a year in the role.
The RSPCA has carried out an independent governance review at the Charity Commission’s request and a spokeswoman for the charity said it would be releasing the findings shortly.
But a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said that the RSPCA’s governance was substandard and called for the review’s recommendations to be enacted.
The spokeswoman said: "The governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity and we are concerned about the impact on public confidence. This has been brought into focus by the departure of the chief executive and the clear recommendations of the charity’s independent governance review, which the commission requested the charity carry out.
"We have written to the charity to make clear that we expect to see a swift action plan against these recommendations, which we will formally monitor, in order to resolve these issues. We will consider what further regulatory action may be required should improvements not be made with the necessary urgency."
Michael Ward, interim chief executive of the RSPCA, said he wanted to "reassure members that at the society it is very much business as usual". He said the charity was working closely with the Charity Commission on its governance review.
He added: "We will continue to implement our ambitious five-year strategy, which sets out how we will seek to improve animal welfare and prevent animal cruelty by continuing to modernise our organisation.
"Having been at the society for seven years, serving as its head of finance and later director of resources, I am very proud of the great work our staff across England and Wales do to help animals and people. Continuing that work successfully with the support of the public remains our prime focus."