Q: Many H&H readers claim the RSPCA has been disinterested when they have telephoned to report suspected neglect. Do you investigate every call?

A: The RSPCA receives more than a million phone calls per annum — one every 25 seconds — and inspectors investigate more than 100,000 complaints every year. On some occasions work is prioritised.

Readers may be describing events that happened before the Animal Welfare Act came into force last spring. Until that time, our inspectors experienced similar frustration as the law only allowed them to take action once there was evidence that an animal had suffered. Now the law enables us to prevent animal suffering by taking effective action earlier in cases of ongoing neglect.

If callers ask to be informed of the outcome of their complaint, we will let them know. If they’re not happy, we will look into it.

Calls are taken at our national control centre and information is passed on to an inspector. If appropriate the inspector might contact the informer to discuss what they have seen — for example if the caller had asked us to let them know what was happening, or if we need to talk to them about alleged animal cruelty, or to find out exactly where they have seen an animal in distress and so on.

If necessary, the inspector might visit the alleged wrongdoer and request to see the animals. We cannot define “necessary” because no two cases are the same and each is dealt with according to its own circumstances. The RSPCA has no powers of entry to property and has to receive the owner’s permission. The RSPCA can request the police attend in order to gain access.

What happens next depends on the welfare of the animals and whether the law has been broken.

Read all the other questions we posed to the RSPCA in today’s Horse & Hound, on sale now (7 February, ’08)