Saturday, January 07, 2006

Unkind Cut

We occasionally see prosecutions for animal cruelty instigated by the RSPCA. Court action is usually a last resort, and in most cases rescue of the animals is the first priority. Where cruelty comes to light in time it can be gratifying to hear evidence of some mistreated cat or dog that doubles its body weight in a few weeks once properly fed and given the attention of a vet. We usually impose fines and costs, and the latter can be very high once kennel fees and vets bills are factored in. We also have the power to ban someone from keeping animals for a specified time.

Rarely, there is a case that has to be treated more seriously, as when a dog-fighting ring was uncovered. Men were betting large sums on dogs pitted against each other in abandoned farm buildings, and the evidence included disgusting photographs of walls spattered with blood to a height of several feet, as well as vet's reports on injuries to the dogs that had been seized. My colleagues decided on a deterrent sentence and gave the organisers six months apiece in a judgement that received a lot of local publicity, and we haven't had any recurrence for a long while now.

The oddest RSPCA case that I have seen involved a man who disposed of an unwanted litter of kittens by the traditional method of putting them in a weighted sack and dropping it into the canal. Rather than being charged with animal cruelty he was summonsed for breaching the law against polluting the waterway. Some of my colleagues felt that was somehow rather insensitive to the memory of the deceased felines, but it was certainly a lot easier to prove than a cruelty charge.

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