‘She did everything she could to create a kinder world’: farewell to animal welfare champion


  • Kirsty Withnall, the RSPCA case officer and National Equine Welfare Council director died on 21 April from cancer, aged 47.

    Kirsty lived in Buckinghamshire, having grown up in Hertfordshire. She always had a passion for animals and learnt to ride as a child. Aged 11, she got her first pony, Topaz.

    She gained a national diploma in equine business management from Hartpury College, then a BSc honours degree in equine and estate studies from Moulton College, before joining the RSPCA inspector training programme, aged 22.

    Kirsty was first posted to Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and Middlesborough, North Yorkshire, then moved to Arundel in West Sussex, where she was based for five years. She then moved to Buckinghamshire and joined the RSPCA’s specialist equine officers. In 2015, she joined the charity’s special operations unit following the birth of her first daughter.

    During her career, Kirsty was instrumental in a number of high-profile cases and large-scale multi-agency operations. In March, she was presented with the Sir Colin Spedding Award on behalf of the National Equine Forum for her extraordinary contribution to equine welfare and in recognition of her “tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to horses and other animals”.

    Will Mitchell, RSPCA special operations unit chief inspector, described Kirsty as an “exceptional investigator and rescuer, a fierce advocate for animal welfare, and a wonderful colleague and friend”.

    “They broke the mould when they made Kirsty and she was a trailblazer and a huge influencer for the way we investigate cruelty,” he said.

    “She was a fearless and formidable investigator, while also ensuring she showed every single animal and human who crossed her path complete empathy, kindness and compassion.”

    Mr Mitchell added that Kirsty “loved her job, the animals she worked with, and the RSPCA”.

    “She unapologetically, whole-heartedly believed in our goal and did everything she could to help create a kinder world for animals,” he said.

    “We’re devastated that our time with Kirsty was cut so short and that her family and friends have had to say goodbye in the cruellest of circumstances, but her legacy lives on every day through the wags, purrs and frolics of the thousands of animals’ lives she saved.”

    Kirsty is survived by her husband and two daughters.

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