Monday, May 09, 2011

The RSPCA: Massive Dollars for Minimal Impact

The uniform is a con. The dog a beggar's prop.

Peter Wedderburn has a piece in the Daily Telegraph which asks why do people hate the RSPCA in the UK?

A quick look at the comments to this article, and it is indeed clear that the RSPCA is hated by many.

Wedderburn notes that one reason for this is that the RSPCA has a multi-faceted mission:

"...the problem is that the RSPCA does much more than just caring for animals. The charity has two main challenging extra roles: enforcing animal welfare legislation, and campaigning for changes on the way that animals are treated by society."

Fair enough.  I understand that some organizations have more than one mandate.  That said, let's take a quick inventory of the RSPCA.

First, how much money is it raising?

Peter Wedderburn's article leaves that out, and it's NOT a small thing to omit in my opinion. 

The national RSPCA raised over £122 million in 2009 -- the U.S. equivalent of $200 million dollars in a country that has one fifth the population of the U.S., and with one tenth the number of dogs

Scale it up any way you want to in order understand the U.S. equivalent -- it's either a billion dollars or two billion dollars.


And what did the RSPCA do with all this money? 

The RSPCA itself claims their big victories in 2010 are these:

  • They protecting 100 abused horses;
  • They opposed the state-sponsored cull of badgers to stop the spread of cattle tubeculosis;
  • They pushed a food-labeling scheme called "Freedom Food" (which companies pay to be part of);
  • They demonized wild animal acts in circuses (is that the biggest problem facing animals in the UK?);
  • They pushed for better labeling of sausages (see "Freedom Food," above).

Peter Wedderburn notes that the RSPCA also "rescued and collected 130,033 animals" and "rehomed 64,086 animals."  

Fair enough.

If we compare these two numbers, however, we find a pretty big gap. That gap is the "death gap" -- the percentage of animals that come in to the RSPCA and that were subsequently euthanized. It seems that about half of the animals that are "rescued and collected" by the RSPCA are actually euthanized.  Many, it should be said, are road-impact wildlife or feral cats.

And what about all those "rehomed animals?"

Well most of them aren't dogs, and most of the "rehoming" is actually NOT being done by the national RSPCA at all.

In a rather fantastic dodge, the RSPCA reports only cash donations to the national organization, but routinely claims credit for ALL of the work being done by its branch establishments to which it provides virtually no financial support.

In the RSPCA's 2009 report, this dodge is papered over, but the practice is made clear in the RSPCA's 2005 report where, in a year that the national RSPCA brought in nearly £100 million, they rehomed less than 4,000 dogs.

To all of this work, we can add about £4 million spent on subsidized veterinary care to the indigent or very low income.

But is that enough, and is that what the people think they are paying for? 

Peter Wedderburn asks an excellent question: 

Should the RSPCA be the 'pet police' or 'animal carers'?

In fact, I think there is a more basic question: 

Should the welfare of animals be entrusted to beggars and con men?

Should the enforcement of animal welfare laws anywhere be funded by the most inefficient revenue-collection system imaginable (direct mail and door-to-door begging).

And should animal law enforcement ever be entrusted to people who impersonate policemen by putting on store-bought uniforms and store-bought badges but who, in fact, have no special rights or statutory powers of enforcement at all?

Now, to be clear, I am NOT against enforcement of animal anti-cruelty laws.

But is this way to do it?

What does it say that for over £122 million a year the RSPCA's enforcement efforts yielded jail time and suspendeded sentences for less than 190 people, and confiscated animals or a ban on keeping animals for 1,600 others, even as it simultaneously rehomes less than 4,000 dogs?

Who thinks that's a success considering the resources being spent?


Jones said...

A friend of mine living in Ireland left her dog tied out of a shop while shopping only to find it removed and taken to a shelter by the ISPCA under the presumption of animal cruelty.
Needless to say that the stress caused to the dog by the whole ordeal was far bigger than the stress caused by waiting out of the shop. The dog is now suffering from separation anxiety.This kind of interventions are also at the base of the hate for such organisations.

Bjarne´s aquarium blogg said...

"And should animal law enforcement ever be entrusted to people who impersonate policemen by putting on store-bought uniforms and store-bought badges but who, in fact, have no special rights or statutory powers of enforcement at all?"
I think this is the reason.I knew
I started to get anoyed by them after seeing seeing some of their
work on animal planet.
And I don´t even live that contry

Jonathan Setter said...

I see you're back, better than ever, fully focused and pulling the wool from our eyes again. "hardcore" indeed.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

The RSPCA in the UK have the reputation of being all-out prosecution led, to the extent that if a starving horse is reported to them, they will simply leave it to starve for long enough that a successful prosecution is nearly certain, and only then will they intervene. If you let a horse starve, then rehabilitation is next to impossible and the animal's life expectancy and utility even on the best of care is much reduced. So, whilst you get a successful prosecution, you condemn the horse to a bullet unless you can find some twerp who wants to feed a useless paddock ornament for the rest of its natural life.

The RSPCA are also highly political, and involve themselves in all manner of campaigns that a charity such as they are shouldn't be into at all. Opposing culling of diseased badgers on health grounds, for instance. In the UK, European badgers are a known wildlife reservoir for the zoonotic disease of Bovine Tuberculosis. The name here is misleading; bTB will infect anything from cows to humans, cats llamas and alpacas (camelids like these seem especially hard-hit by it) and of course badgers; badgers are super-excretors of bTB and are thus very bad things to have near a livestock farm.

In short, the RSPCA are a waste of money and space. Much of their income is from legacies; deranged old ladies leaving money to the RSPCA to help cats, etc; this is why the RSPCA advertising material emphasises the small animal re-homing (especially cats).

grapfhics said...

sounds a lot like the two micro-charities that try to dominate animal welfare in this country

CrlWln said...

Well researched and a good read. Thanks.