AN attempt by Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity to obtain police powers has caused anger.
It is feared The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals could use the powers to pursue an animal rights agenda.
It wants powers to allow hundreds of its inspectors to enter private property without a police officer and seize pets.
Officials from the charity have been in talks with police chiefs and government officials over the plan.
But the move has unsettled MPs and campaign groups who fear it could be abused to allow the charity to pursue a biased agenda.
The organisation wants the new powers despite a cross-party group of MPs publishing a report last November in which the RSPCA was accused of “targeting vulnerable, ill and elderly” people and removing their pets.
Simon Hart MP, a Tory MP and former head of the Countryside Alliance, said he would write to Michael Gove, the Environment secretary, to express his concerns.
He said: “The RSPCA is a welfare charity not a private police force.
“This suggestion raises serious questions given the animal rights agenda being pursued by its council.
“The charity’s past record in this area would make it the last organisation on earth that you would want to grant powers of this nature to.”
Tim Bonner, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, added: “You dress this up it can mean only one thing.
“The RSPCA wants statutory powers of entry on to private property and intends to use its huge £140 million annual budget in pursuit of those powers.
“Not happy with being moral arbiter, investigator and prosecutor of criminal offences the RSPCA now wants the power to enter your land and access your garden if it believes an offence is being committed.
“Its record of investigations and prosecution is no better. “From killing family pets, to prosecuting the old and vulnerable, to politically motivated attacks on hunts and farmers, controversy has surrounded the RSPCA’s self-appointed role as a prosecutor.
“To even suggest that the state should entrust an organisation this flawed with far reaching and fundamental powers over its citizens shows how deluded the RSPCA is.
Earlier this year the RSPCA’s new chief executive Jeremy Cooper quit after just a year in charge.
That prompted the Charity Commission to say that the “governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity.”
Currently RSPCA inspectors who suspect a pet is in distress have to contact a local police officer and wait for them to arrive before they can enter private property to seize the animal.
But under the proposals, the charity’s 333 inspectors would be granted statutory powers to intervene without first asking a police officer to accompany them.
This would allow its inspectors to enter people’s gardens, sheds and outbuildings to seize animals which they believed are suffering without police support.
The powers would not extend to private homes at this stage – the inspectors would still have to ask police to apply for warrants from a judge.
The organisation said it was “also seeking the power to seize animals in distress” rather than have “to wait for the police and a vet which could prolong an animal suffering”.
The Charity Commission recently said the organisation faces “further regulatory action” over the way it is run following the dramatic resignation of its chief executive.
Jeremy Cooper had been a steadying influence in the charity but was understood to have fallen out with members.