Tel. Caerleon 420737 Lilac Cottage, Llanhennock, Nr. Newport Gwent.

We feel you should be aware of the true facts behind the disbanding of the Gwent Branch Committee by the Council of the RSPCA. Briefly the RSPCA structure is:–

PAID STAFF:- The HQ being in Manor House, Horsham with paid Inspectors in each Branch and Regional Organisers - in Gwent’s case, Captain Rowland James of Carmarthenshire, whose job it is to help Branches with fund-raising etc. Field Officers employed from HQ to visit Shelters - we had a Mr. Adams.

COUNCIL:– Vo1untary people, around 23, elected every 3 years responsible for governing the Society. About 8 of these are known as Group Representatives (of which I was one representing Wa1es until I resigned in 1980 because I did not like what I saw). These are voted on by the Branches concerned. The rest are people who put themselves forward for election in the postal vote sent to all members of the Society. Some may know nothing about Shelters or the running of a Branch.

BRANCH:- This comprises of a Committee, free to raise money but its first commitment being the 4,050 quota to be sent to HQ towards the upkeep of its Inspector, What is over it can use in any way it thinks fit. We ran many functions, our turnover being around 30,000 a year, the Shelter costing us 600 a week to run.

This Branch was one of the most active voluntary-run Branches. We ran a Shelter employing a resident Supervisor and 3 Kennelgirls (a clinic, until the lease ran out a few years ago). We were receiving over 1,000 te1ephone calls annua11y for help and dea1t with over 1,000 letters a year, ran a Bird Hospital and helped many people with spaying, vets bills and with unwanted animals. We could not have done more. We were all voluntary helpers. Nearly 1,500 animals were successfully homed a year, most checked, the name of the Gwent Branch being respected in Gwent. This was obvious because we were financially secure and because of the amount of legacies left to us.

We received much publicity, both newspaper and TV wise and indeed, when the adverse publicity was raging against the Society a few years ago, one letter appeared in the Radio Times in its favour and that was from a man in Devon, praising the dedication of the Gwent Shelter. We received a glowing write-up of our Shelter in a recent RSPCA magazine "Today".

I had been Branch Secretary for about 28 years, having worked for the Society for about 33 years, almost all my adult life. When l became Secretary (everything was destroyed before then) I used to board animals in the private kennels above my home, pending re-homing. From there the Branch took over the Police Pound in Newport until money became available for the present Shelter on land we found, about 18 years ago. The policy we maintained over all these years was not to destroy a healthy anima1 that had a chance of finding a home or a sick one that cou1d be nursed back to health. WE HAVE NEVER CHANGED THAT POLICY. Any animal destroyed was only on the advice of our Veterinary Surgeon in consultation with our Supervisor who had been there 11 years. All dogs were inoculated against distemper and parvo. We had never been faulted by the Field Officer on his unannounced visits for anything other than clean kennels. He, in consultation with our Veterinary Surgeon, had originally decided that the number of dogs we could keep should not exceed 140.

In May 1984 a Mrs. Rachel Smith then Council Chairman, visited the Shelter at about 9 a.m. on her way to a meeting. Then 4 months later she put in a report (never seen by us) that we had too many dogs (cats were ignored). I received a confidential letter from the regiona1 organiser Captain Rowland James on September 7th it read: – "I attended a meeting of the Animal Welfare Establishments Committee in London on Wednesday where the question of the renewal of the licence for your Shelter was raised. At first it was only a matter of the number of animals that you would be permitted to house but later it developed into a discussion of the report submitted by Mrs. Rachel Smith after her visit in May. There was some opposition to the report and eventually I was instructed to compile a report in detail regarding the Shelter. With this in mind I wonder If I could visit you on Friday next, September. 14th, so that we could both take walk around the Shelter?…… etc. This is in fact no bad thing. The ball is in our court and we will be in a position to submit an accurate and unbiased report. In addition Capt. de Geus (the present regional representative) is very angry that part of Mrs. Smith’s report, which he has not seen, contains allegations submitted direct by another Branch against both your home and the Cardiff home.In his view any Branch wishing to complain should do so through him and he is determined to put a stop to the direct link which has been established The initiative rests between him and I and I can not see how anything but good can come of it...... etc." signed Gareth Rowland James.

However, with no consultation with the Branch or our Veterinary Surgeon a letter was received in December from HQ saying the Council had decided to cut our number from 140 to 100, preferably getting down to 70, Our Veterinary Surgeon immediate1y wrote back a strong letter upholding the Shelter and the number 140, but this was ignored. I wrote back saying we would do all we could to comply with this and gradually we stopped taking in unwanted pets from the Gwent people, the dogs from Blackwood Police at the end of their 7 days to save destruction (the Police had asked us to help) and we took only the Police strays in Newport, for which we had a contract of around 2.17 per day for 7 days, any of our own returned and the odd dog brought in by the Inspector. OUR RECORD CARDS PROVED THIS. EVERYTHING WE COULD POSSIBLY DO WE DID.

The Field Officer continued to visit, the numbers wou1d go up and down, sometimes to 120, but with as many as 40 dogs coming in per week if the dog wardens had a purge, the figure climbed back up again until it was reduced by substantial press advertising, homing many. He was due to come again in August 1985, one of the few times we knew ahead of his visit. We had about 20 dogs over the 100 and by now we were getting very tired and under stress with the constant counting. I had asked him what did they want us to do. DID THEY WANT US TO START DESTROYING?? HIS ANSWER WAS NO. This indeed was in line with the Official RSPCA Policy Book.

We even considered hiding the 20 surplus dogs and I mentioned this to our Inspector as we felt that until the "magic number" of 100 could be reached they would continue with their counting. However, we decided not to worry and I rang him back. It was only a small number over. IT WAS TOO LATE THOUGH AND I HAVE BEEN TOLD HE HAD ALREADY PUT 1N HIS REPORT! So Mr. Adams visited, found spotless kennels, but with about 20 dogs over. A week later the Shelter received a lunch hour visit by a Council Member called Forster, who happened to be a Vet, saying he was on holiday. He did not contact our Veterinary Surgeon or have the elementary courtesy to send us a copy of his report, but that report of too many dogs resulted in the Council, without question, suspending the Gwent Branch Committee.

At about 8.40 a.m. two days after the Council Meeting I received a visit from Captain Rowland James the Regional Organiser, with a letter stating this. I was not allowed to answer the Branch telephone, deal with the post, carry on the plans of our Christmas Fair (later he called and asked me to run it!), Shelter food appeal, or to hold the Pippa Dee Party arranged for the next day. The Branch was FROZEN. At the same time, the "Hit Team" arrived at the Shelter. The Supervisor was told (four times) not to ring me or talk to the Press or TV., 29 dogs were destroyed and 49 removed in a large waiting RSPCA ambulance to be re-homed, she was told. Particularly distressing was the plea of the Supervisor to leave Gemma and her puppies – a bitch brought in starving who adored the Supervisor. She and her puppies had homes waiting as soon as the puppies were ready. This was ignored and Gemma was dragged into the waiting van. 27 of the dogs destroyed were under treatment by our Veterinary Surgeon for curable skin trouble (which often happens when a dog has been abandoned and lives out of refuse bins) and all wou1d have recovered. Our Vet. Surgeon put a letter in upholding this. The dogs were put into plastic bags before rigor mortis had set in (against strictest ruling) and the young upset girls had to remove them from the large bin, open the bags and were shattered to see many favourite dogs who they had been treating daily. The woman with the ambulance I was told was surprised the dogs mouths weren’t taped to be destroyed, she was told – no – they trust so much they just stand. She also rang later to say she had never seen such well-fed happy dogs as the ones removed – they even knew their names! Our local paper had Placards and front-page story "RSPCA Squad in Kennels Killing Orgy"

Forster’s complaint was based on overcrowding. The actual kennels are exceptionally large, being 8 ft by 4 ft wide with a door leading straight into a covered run 15ft long, so that the movement area was 23ft by 4ft, the dogs being treated were kept separate from others. The decision of the Council was based on the PERSONAL VIEW OF FORSTER in direct contradiction to our experienced local vet. At what stage does the alleged overcrowding cause physical suffering? Is it better for a dog to be killed rather than put up with others in a kennel with it for a few weeks? Is this a logical decision when a Vet or Inspector cannot take a man to Court who ties up his dog on a short chain all its life? Remember also, a dog is a pack animal.

So, without warning (no letter of warning was received except the December letter telling us to cut our numbers from 140 to 100 and this had been confirmed when our President wrote asking for copies of the alleged warnings – there were none) the Committee was suspended.

I requested to appear before the Council, the plan was for our Vet. Surgeon to attend to disprove Forster’s complaint, the Shelter Supervisor and our President Mr. John Hobhouse (who is the Bath RSPCA Chairman and runs a large Shelter there and once was the National Council Chairman). However the Council Officers appear to have decided to hide behind the exact wording of the rules that only Committee Members could appear and the three main witnesses were therefore refused. Even if this decision was legally correct there was nothing to prevent them being asked to give evidence on crucial points of facts. So a1l basic rules of natural justice were ignored. I entered the Council room with Mrs. Green, a Committee Member, as Major Langham, the paid Branch Liaison Officer shouted at our President in front of the Overseas Club Visitors.

It would appear from questions asked at the meeting that few of the approx. 20 members present had much idea of what was going on, although I had written to everyone with the background, with the exception of Mr. Richard Ryder. Miss Celia Hammond and Miss Walder. Not one person asked the basic question – What written warning did the Branch receive? Answer None, other than the note of Council decision in December 1984 to restrict the licence to 100, not one person asked if the Council had made any offer to help the Branch cope with their problems by adding extra kennels. I have never had anyone speak to me before like Mrs. Joan Felthouse, deputy Chairman, Mrs. Rachel Smith or the Vet. Mr. Forster and indeed at one point Mr. Richard Ryder jumped to his feet and said that it was more of an inquisition than an enquiry. My own feeling was I was wasting my time. No help or word was forthcoming from our Regional Representative, Captain de Geus. The result of this was the disbanding of the Gwent Branch Committee. No letter was written to me personally, just a carbon copy of a letter sent to our Chairman.

In an area such as Gwent, following the Miners’ strike, the pressure on the kennels was immense. MANY DOGS HAD BEEN TAKEN IN FROM SURROUNDING AREAS THAT HAD NO KENNELS and it takes a hard heart to turn away animals that could be homed, simply because of an instruction from HQ. which flew in the face of any humanitarian policy and the advice and support of their own experienced Vet.. It would take a very hard heart to nurse a little dog and then, as happened in the case of "Pelican", remove her card comment on her length of stay and advise destruction, as Captain Rowland James the Regional Organiser did, when he (with no experience) took over the running of the Shelter. Yes, she had been there a while because of re-occuring throat trouble which our Vet. decided to operate on, successfully. She was 12 months old. However, I rescued her and homed her. Even our Vet said "Don’t ask me to destroy her.’ The same with "Nelson" saved from a life on a chain, with one eye knocked out, "No one wi1l take him". said the powers that be, he was rescued too and immediately homed. Likewise a shaggy bitch with a little fur off one ear that the staff patiently combed over, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed. Our President has her in his own home.

This is the true story After we were disbanded and only 50 dogs remained in the Shelter, over 100 dogs were turned away last November to December. My "Emotive" adverts as they were called, stopped. We had to do something immediately so we started to form the GWENT ANIMAL RESCUE, We commenced by homing Rex, the beloved pet of an old lady entering a home. The Police rang me about him, what else could we do? He couldn’t enter the Shelter. Letters and telephone calls poured in supporting us and begging us to do something. A gentleman from Hereford missed our adverts in his paper and went to the Shelter thinking it was lack of finance, offered Capt. Rowland James 200 for the adverts to continue – he was willing to accept the money, but not to advertise. Fortunately the gentleman rang me and I was able to tell him what was happening and the money was put at our disposal.

WILL YOU HELP US PLEASE?

All we want to do is to help animals. A Bank Account has been opened at the Midland Bank and we hope to register as a charity. We need : –

If there is anything at all you would like clarified, do please let me know, we have nothing to hide. What we would like to know is: –

Who is the Branch responsible for all this and who is the "direct line" in HQ? We believe we know. Why, after over 20 years of never changing our policy were we suddenly pounced on? The 140 dogs were always coped with successfully. Why should the Regional Organiser instruct our Supervisor not to home any of our unwanted dogs in the Mid-Glamorgan area? (whose Branch have no kennels). There were people from the above area who had a dog from us approx. 12 years ago, wanting another and we had to turn them away. Cardiff Shelter is allowed to home there – why is Gwent banned?

Why was the Swan Rescue Group not allowed to continue building their little pond and enclosure at the bottom of our Shelter? This wonderful group, doing so much under the leadership of Mr. Graham Phillips and Mr. Boulton needed a small patch of land – we had so much. They were indeed saving the Inspector work rescuing swans. It seemed only right to offer this little unwanted patch.

Why was Forster’s personal advice taken and not our own Veterinary Surgeon? We are not the only Branch, by the way, to receive this upset. Our President has written to every Branch Chairman and separately Secretary in the country with the truth and there is a move apparently at the forthcoming Secretaries’ Conference in London to get the rulebook changed to allow a Branch a fair trial before an impartial body and to be allowed independent witnesses such as their Veterinary Surgeon. Oh dear, even reading this makes me wonder what on earth is happening, hundreds of people have written in expressing their disgust and many have cancelled wills in favour of the RSPCA for other charities to benefit instead. Our President alone has cancelled a half a million pound will.

Please help us to get the Gwent Animal Rescue Shelter. Yours sincerely,

All mail welcome

Bernice Jones.

(on behalf of the ex-Gwent Branch Committee)

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