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RSPCA unveils animal champion Claire Horton as Chair for critical landmark year

RSPCA unveils animal champion Claire Horton as Chair for critical landmark year

The RSPCA has appointed former Battersea Chief, Claire Horton CBE, as its new Chair, as the charity prepares to celebrate its landmark 200th anniversary by encouraging record numbers of people to take action for animals.

Claire Horton CBE Claire will head the RSPCA’s 12-strong board of trustees, who are responsible for the governance of the charity, taking over from René Olivieri who has served in the role since 2019.  Claire will work closely with Chris Sherwood who has been Chief Executive of the RSPCA since 2018 to take forward the charity’s ambitious strategy, Together for Animal Welfare.

The award winning former Chief Executive of Battersea has enjoyed a highly successful career in the third sector spanning more than 30 years. Highly respected in the field and well versed in the issues of the sector, Claire arrives at the RSPCA at an exciting and critical time for animal welfare.

RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood, said:

“We are thrilled to have Claire as Chair for our 200th anniversary year which is a crucial turning point for us as a charity - but also for animal welfare.

“The rise of industrial farming, the catastrophic depletion of wildlife, the growing challenges of climate change and the impact of the cost of living crisis means that animals need us more now than ever. It is vital we rally more people to take action for animals.

“We have been working hard to transform and modernise the RSPCA, and in our 200th year we will be encouraging record numbers of people to join, inspiring everyone to create a better world for all animals.

“Claire has a proven track record of developing charitable services, growing income, profile and raising awareness and increasing the number of supporters and volunteers in the organisations with which she has worked, so her experience and insight is so valuable.”

During nearly 11 years at the helm of Battersea, Claire embarked on a modernisation programme which helped to grow supporter numbers and quadruple the charity’s income.

She was renowned for building meaningful partnerships with sector bodies, politicians, campaigners and industry leaders to make progress on legislation changes, such as animal cruelty sentencing, compulsory  microchipping of dogs and tackling welfare problems in the dog trade, such as illegal import and smuggling of animals, back-street breeding and puppy farms.

Claire said:

“I'm immensely proud to become chair of trustees of the world's oldest and largest animal welfare charity during its landmark 200th anniversary.

“I’ve had a life-long commitment to animal welfare and I have been a long-standing advocate, supporter and admirer of the incredible work of the RSPCA and its people.

“For two centuries, the RSPCA has been changing hearts and minds, and inspiring kindness to animals both here and around the world - but there is so much more work to do.

“This is a pivotal moment for us to come together and to engage more people than ever in our mission, as society continues evolving in its relationship with animals. I’m incredibly motivated by the ambitious and important strategy, Together for Animal Welfare.

“I really am thrilled to be joining the RSPCA at such a critical time and cannot wait to work together to help shape and support the work of the charity’s dedicated frontline rescuers, staff and volunteers; as well as work with stakeholders across the sector. Together, we can achieve so much for animals.”

Claire, took up her most recent appointment as Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in January 2021.

Claire’s previous roles have included Chief Executive positions at the University of Warwick Students’ Union and the Variety Club of Great Britain, while she is a former chair of the rescue and rehoming sector’s membership body, The Association of Dogs & Cats Homes (ADCH) and Special Advisor to Defra and the APPG for Animal Welfare.

She has an MBA from the University of Warwick Business School and she is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Institute of Directors. During her time at Battersea she was named charity chief executive of the year by the Third Sector Excellence Awards in recognition of her work growing the charity and she also collected the UK overall director of the year (all sectors) title in the Institute of Directors’ annual awards.

She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to animal welfare.

As part of the RSPCA’s drive to modernise governance, the selection process for the chair’s role was opened up to external candidates for consideration alongside internal candidates - a first in their 200-year history.

This is a key milestone to further strengthen governance so the RSPCA is best placed to tackle global animal welfare challenges in our 200th anniversary year.

After selection by an appointment panel, Claire was co-opted as a trustee and will become the RSPCA chair on January 1 2024.

The RSPCA’s Chief Executive paid tribute to outgoing Chair René Olivieri, who will now continue as a trustee and vice-chair of RSPCA Assured.

Chris added:

“René did an outstanding job as Chair of the RSPCA for four years. During this time, he undertook invaluable work overseeing a period of significant modernisation and change, presiding over a new, ambitious ten-year strategy, Together for Animal Welfare, and embedding our new governance model.

“During his tenure, he has steered the board of trustees through unprecedented times - first the pandemic, then the ongoing cost of living crisis - and we have been able to offer a strong response to support people and their pets through these challenges."