We launch rehabilitation scheme to teach kindness to animals


We've launched a pioneering new rehabilitation scheme for people convicted of animal welfare offences.

People convicted of causing suffering to animals can now be ordered by magistrates’ courts to take part in our pilot intervention programme aimed at stopping re-offending.

Kent has been one of the first counties to trial the groundbreaking programme – the first education and intervention specifically focused on animal welfare.

David Allen, our head of education, said:

The RSPCA works hard to educate the public about the needs of animals but our inspectors sadly still see far too many cases of appalling cruelty and neglect. We've all heard of speeding courses for those who've broken the limit to educate them about the potential impact of their actions and prevent it happening again.

Similarly, this pioneering new scheme aims to teach offenders that animals feel fear and pain like us, spelling out the impact of their crimes, encouraging empathy for animals and advice about how to care for them.

It may seem strange for the RSPCA to be helping people who've neglected and abused animals, but until now there hasn’t been any opportunity to address the issues that might have led to that abuse happening. We really hope this programme will enable us to target that behaviour and stop those involved harming animals again.

The course aims to teach participants about the basic needs of animals, their feelings and how to be a responsible owner as well as teaching them strategies to make better choices and decisions.

Magistrates’ have already ordered the first offenders to take part in this new programme.

First referral case to our scheme

Filthy kitchen floor © RSPCA

The first referral involved three cats who were abandoned at a property in Dover where one cat was found dead, curled up in his litter tray.

Two men, aged 24 and 31 from Dover, were sentenced at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 13, February.

They pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a string of allegations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 relating to three cats who'd been abandoned at a property in Dover.

When we attended the property we found one black cat lying dead in his litter tray. 

The men admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the cat between May 24 and July 4 last year, by failing to provide reasonable daily care and supervision leading to weight loss, poor body condition and physical deterioration.

The pair also failed to meet the needs of two other cats – a black female cat and a tabby and white female cat. They'd not provided them with a suitable diet or living environment, and they failed to protect them from pain, suffering, injury or disease by not giving them daily care and supervision.

Abandoned, skinny and suffering

The cats were living in filthy conditions with rubbish and faeces strewn around the property. There were cat food packages which looked like they'd been clawed open.

The cats were skinny and suffering from a skin condition which had clearly been left untreated for some time.

The men were sentenced:

  • 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years
  • 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and eight of these will be spent undertaking our programme
  • disqualified from owning all animals for 10 years
  • ordered to pay £300 in costs, £84 in vet fees, and a £115 victim surcharge

One of the men was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

David continued:

Magistrate David Ellerby was very impressed with our pilot programme which aims to improve an offenders’ understanding of animal welfare and potentially reduce their risk of re-offending.

This is something that's in the very early stages and will hopefully be rolled out nationally soon but it was great to hear the court wish us every success with the running of the programme.

The two surviving cats have now been rehomed.

Delighted that courts are sentencing offenders to our intervention programme

David added:

We're delighted that courts are beginning to sentence offenders to our pilot intervention programme in the hope that this can prevent other animals from being hurt or neglected in the future.

We believe education is a key part in preventing animal cruelty. Find out more about what we do and our education work.

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