Successful RSPCA prosecutions increased by a third last year

Report from the animal welfare charity says there were 4,168 convictions for animal cruelty, the bulk of which cases concerned dogs, cats and horses

An abandoned dog
An abandoned dog

The number of convictions gained through private prosecutions by the RSPCA increased by about a third in 2012.

A report from the animal welfare charity shows that it gained 4,168 convictions for animal cruelty and neglect in 2012, compared with 3,114 in 2011.

The report says that 1,552 people were taken to court in 2012, up from 1,341 the previous year, an increase of nearly 16 per cent. Some defendants received more than one conviction.

As in previous years, the bulk of the convictions concerned cruelty to dogs. Prosecutions concerning cats and horses were in second and third places respectively.

The number of animal rescues increased from 119,126 in 2011 to 130,695 in 2012.

The charity was last year criticised by a judge presiding over its successful private prosecution of a hunt for illegal fox hunting for spending more than £320,000 on bringing the case.

The RSPCA won a private prosecution in December against the Heythrop Hunt for illegal fox hunting, the first successful prosecution against a corporate hunt.

The charity was also accused of "failing in its duty of prudence" by spending so much on the Heythrop prosecution by a parliamentary group led by Simon Hart, a Conservative MP and the former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance.

After the case was over, the RSPCA met representatives from the Charity Commission, which found no evidence of wrongdoing on the charity’s part. The charity then launched a fighting fund to make it clear to donors what elements of its activities they were financing.

"For us, prosecution is always the last resort," said Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA. "However, if there is evidence of a crime and serious animal abuse, we will take legal action to protect the animals and prevent further abuse. We also want to see judges taking these offences far more seriously."

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