This is the newsletter published by and for members of the RSPCA. Because of the deep discontent that it shows within the membership we feel that it should have wider publicity than it currently receives. We have maintained the content accurately, but have lost some of the formatting. Past editions will be added as time permits. We hope that publishing this will do some good and lead to a much needed reform of the society. contains links that might be of further interest.

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We wish to apologise for the delay in producing the first Watchdog Newsletter but after our original letter was distributed, we have really been inundated with letters from both branch and ordinary members. One thing can be seen most clearly and that is that the disillusionment of the voluntary members of the Society, who work so hard for animals, is widespread and deeply felt. The policy of Horsham H.Q. to divide and rule has been successful when many people and branches expressed the view that they thought that they were alone in their problems. It has been obvious from the telephone calls and correspondence that the lack of respect and encouragement for dedicated voluntary workers by many staff and council members is almost like a cancer in the Society.

There was much anger expressed by those branches in deprived areas where the needs of animals is greatest and the ability to raise funds almost non existent at having been closed down due to non payment of quota rule by the council is unjust for requiring branches, as a first committment before any animal welfare work, to send in excess of £4,000 to headquarters when, as we have been told, the "Society has a large surplus of funds invested and has an annual surplus of between 1 and 2 million each year." The Society’s luncheon voucher system alone could pay several quotas a year. Branch of ficials who are unable to meet the quota requirements are summoned to H.Q. and often to council meetings (at their own expense ) and are treated as erring staff members who are not pulling their weight, rather than as voluntary workers who are not paid a penny for years of dedicated work. The "Kangaroo Courts" as one council member has referred to them, are hardly held to help members but to humiliate them and, as often happened, to reduce them to tears. The information given to the council is mostly from Regional Organisers who are often not unbiased in their views on some branch officials.

Each year, fewer people feel that there is any point in going to the Society’s A.G.M.where the governinq council have full control over what may go in motions put forward by the membership. If they, the council members, happen to let a controversial motion through, then they can still win by "belt and braces rules" whereby they only have to implement rule changes. Often at council meetings, motions for the A.G.M. are thrown out on the old catch all "that it would not be in the interests of the Society to let the motion go forward for debate." In recent years, the management has even practised restricted press entry to the Society’s A.G.M. Many people have also expressed their concern that, with a dwindling membership, the continued practice of allowing over 800 staff to be members and eligible to vote, could well have a less than democratic effect on the election of governing council members. This has to be looked at, together with the reports which Watchdog has received, of Regional Organisers advising branch committees and others for whom they should vote (especially if the truth is not always told about the candidates standing for election).

From the letters received it is clear that it is only the extreme dedication of many people within the Society that keeps them working for animals, when they are beset by petty procedures at the best and downright harrassment at the worst. Without exception, people feel that there must be changes in the Society to make it more answerable to its membership and in particular to its massive volunteer force which is the means by which the Society keeps its good name, in so far as it does. Not surprisingly, correspondents were critical of the animal welfare side of the Society as well as its administration. They noted how few motions on animal welfare were ever heard at the A.G.M. for voting on by the membership and even on the few occasions when they were allowed, how seldom the resolutions were carried out.

Branches still struggling with the massive unwanted and stray cat and dog problem appeared singularly unimpressed that the RSPCA has launched a campaign which appears weak and doomed to failure in relation to the overbreeding of dogs and cats. The RSPCA will not even consider breaking the agreement with the veterinary profession not to set up its own spaying and neutering clinics, though evidence has shown that it has worked in other countries where there has been a drop of over 50% in the stray and unwanted dog population. Headquarter’s vets are sent to meetings with the veterinary profession to argue politely for minimal reductions in spaying costs and to set up tiny pilot schemes which history has shown are often of no real value in the light of the present day problem. We have seen the Society chose members of the veterinary profession, who are often downright unsympathetic, to investigate situations for them.

What must be clear to all, with the eyes to see, is that animal abuse, be it in factory farms, in the research laboratories or other areas, has increased both in the size of the problem and in the intensity of the abuse, over the period of the RSPCA’s existence. The Society’s founder members would, no doubt, be appalled at today’s animal torture and carnage. The Society clearly needs to take more notice of the knowledge at the grass roots level of the membership and through them of the current thinking of the population. We must use professionals in the Society’s membership and not disregard them because they sometimes criticise present policy.

What is also clear is that we can achieve none of this whilst the democratic structure of the Society is so sick. No longer will those who want to maintain the status quo of the Society be able to discredit all who call for change by suggesting that they are politcally left wing or attention seeking yobbos. We believe that the call has to be listened to if it comes from those whose work for the Society is at grass roots level. The very people who are being rejected for speaking out in their frustration. Watchdog’s mailbag is sad in so far as it talks of the Society’s ill treatment of its members but cheering in that at last people are aware that they are not alone in their fight to improve the Society.

We believe that we must be ready to call an Extraordinary General Meeting and work through the existing structures to get improvements. We therefore ask if you will please collect signatures on the enclosed form so that we have the required number of signatures for such action. 500 signatures are needed and all must be from either paid up or ex officio members of the RSPCA PLEASE, get to work and try and return the filled up forms by the middle of February.

            RICHARD FARHALL                                   MARGARET HOUSE

         ANGELA WALDER                                      DAVE WETTON                                 JOAN WATSON      

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