Most allegations of animal abuse are brought by the RSPCA under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The RSPCA are a charitable organisation and they do not have any specialist powers or powers similar to the police so any prosecutions they bring are considered a private prosecution. There is a lot of public confusion regarding the RSPCA and not many people know that they are under no obligation by law to answer any of their questions. However it may be in their interests to do so as it may have a major effect on any subsequent prosecution or indeed on the decision as to whether to prosecute at all.
Animal Welfare Act 2006
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on people to ensure that they take all reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals. In particular, the following five welfare needs for animals are cited under section 9:
- the need for a suitable environment
- the need for a suitable diet
- the need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- the need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and
- the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Even more seriously, causing an animal unnecessary suffering or participating in the organisation or facilitation of animal fights are among the other offences that can also lead to a prosecution.
A conviction can result in a variety of outcomes which can include a fine or, in more serious cases, a custodial sentence. Moreover, a conviction for some animal cruelty offences can also result in a deprivation order (depriving you of ownership and allowing for the destruction of your animals) and disqualification from keeping animals in the future. Therefore, it is important that you engage with the investigation and seek appropriate advice from specialist solicitors.
How can Stephensons help?
It can be extremely daunting if you are contacted by the RSPCA in relation to an investigation particularly if it follows shortly after the seizure of a much loved pet. However, if the RSPCA do seek to interview you under caution, you must remember that you have the same rights as you do in a police interview. This means that you are entitled to have a legal representative present. It is important that you make use of this option and that you seek advice prior to any interview to ensure that your interests are best protected. Any information presented during this interview could ultimately be used as part of a continuing investigation or in a determination to prosecute.
Our team of specialist criminal defence solicitors and accredited police station representatives have a wide range of experience of assisting individuals who face such allegations, providing clear pragmatic advice at the outset to manage an investigation efficiently. This can ultimately impact the decision of the RSPCA to prosecute or take no further action.
Should the RSPCA ultimately bring a prosecution against you, our specialist advocates are able to provide with expert representation at court to achieve the most favourable outcome possible, whether that be an acquittal or a significantly reduced sentence.
If you require immediate representation we have highly skilled police station representatives available 24 hours a day all year round. If you require emergency assistance outside the normal working hours please contact 07836 574 607.
Otherwise please contact us on 0203 816 1098 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you as soon as possible.