Does the RSPCA care more about foxes than the family pets they savage? Believe it or not, the charity doesn't want to …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 28, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

Vincent Graff

18:46 EST, 27 May 2013


18:47 EST, 27 May 2013

The more I hear about Chico, the pedigree chihuahua on the sofa next to me, the more I fall in love with him — and the more I wonder why he’s never been on Britain’s Got Talent.

‘He dances on his hind legs,’ says his owner, 11-year-old Milly Brewster. ‘He does tricks for his food,’ says Milly’s dad, Richard.

‘When repeats of On The Buses come on the television, he howls along to the music,’ adds Milly’s mum, Sharon.

Trauma: Millie Brewster and her dog Chico who was mauled by a fox in their back garden

Trauma: Millie Brewster and her dog Chico who was mauled by a fox in their back garden

Sadly, Chico has not been doing any dancing or party tricks of late. 

The weekend before last, just after dark, the family was enjoying a peaceful evening at home when suddenly they heard a piercing, screaming noise from the garden. 

They rushed to the French windows at the back of their flat to see an appalling sight: their beloved pet — a gentle, playful dog smaller than a tabby cat — dangling from the jaws of a fox.

Richard explains: ‘The fox stood there, stared at us and then dropped Chico by the back door. It looked like he’d been chopped with an axe.

‘He was screaming like I’ve never heard before. He was covered in blood. He couldn’t walk — all he could do was try to drag the back of his body along. It was horrible.’

Horrible — and frightening. To make matters worse, Chico was also covered in fox urine.

As a result of the horrific attack, Chico was left with a punctured stomach lining and injuries to his genitals. Since, Milly has regularly been in floods of tears. 

Terrifying: The Brewsters say that the RSPCA seemed to care more about the welfare of the fox than their family pet

Terrifying: The Brewsters say that the RSPCA seemed to care more about the welfare of the fox than their family pet

She’s calm now, but occasionally you see her eyes moistening as she relives the events that nearly killed her beloved pet. She’s struggled to sleep since the attack, says her mum, and she’s not been eating properly.

But what made matters worse for her and the family was the attitude they say they found when they took the animal to their local RSPCA branch in Putney, South-West London.

While the Brewsters are grateful the vet saved their dog’s life, they are angry and bemused by the way Britain’s premier animal charity treats the threat from urban foxes. 

Richard says the area is over-run by them. A few doors down, a fox tried to burrow underneath a neighbour’s rabbit hutch, he says. And, not long ago, he found a decapitated cat in the alleyway behind the houses.

Yet he says that when he took their dog in for treatment, the staff seemed more concerned with the welfare of foxes than their pet.

Once the surgeon had patched up Chico, ‘we were told that they wouldn’t treat our dog again unless we had him castrated,’ says Richard. ‘Why can’t the foxes be castrated?’

‘You see them patrolling up and down. They’ve got everything they need. There are dogs next door, three cats the other side, a rabbit and two ducks. All the way along are pets.’

RSPCA staff admitted local pets were being attacked, says Sharon, but when the Brewsters asked how they could protect Chico, they were ‘stonewalled’. Richard asked what would happen if he used an air rifle to kill the fox. ‘They told me they would prosecute me for animal cruelty.’

Incredibly, the very same centre that looked after Chico was also caring for an injured fox. 

Sharon says: ‘One of the nurses said, “Every time I feed it, I’m scared it’s going to go for me.”’ The problem appears to be getting worse. Last week, the Loose Women TV presenter Denise Welch revealed that her eight-year-old bulldog was left foaming at the mouth and struggling for air after being attacked by a fox inside her South London home. Her 12-year-old son Louis spotted the animal in her kitchen — hiding behind her fridge.

Family: Richard Brewster, his daughter Millie and her dog Chico. The father said that Milly was in tears after the incident

Family: Richard Brewster, his daughter Millie and her dog Chico. The father said that Milly was in tears after the incident

Humans are at risk, too: in February, a four-week-old baby lost his finger after a fox dragged him from his cot.
I can speak from personal experience about the brazenness of the urban fox. Shortly before my son was born, my wife was watching TV on the sofa one night. 

We’d left the conservatory doors open because it was a warm summer evening. My wife looked up — to find a fox standing 6ft from her. 

Eight months’ pregnant, she was petrified — but when she screamed the animal didn’t flinch. Happily, he left the house without further incident, though we now keep a barrier across the back door whenever we leave it open.

One of our neighbours was not so lucky. They discovered a fox in an upstairs bedroom, seeking sanctuary on top of a wardrobe. 

Not knowing what to do, they screamed and shouted and shooed it towards the back door. The fox panicked and left the house, leaving a trail of faeces all the way down their stairs.

Despite stories such as these — repeated in the cities across the country — the RSPCA refuses to do anything to curb the menace.

Terrorising: Foxes have been attacking the local pets, including rabbits, dogs and cats

Terrorising: Foxes have been attacking the local pets, including rabbits, dogs and cats

Incredibly, the charity is, in fact, encouraging the urban fox.

Three months after this paper first reported the fact, the RSPCA still proudly carries a leaflet on its website entitled Living With Foxes.

It contains a QA section. The first question is: ‘How can I help foxes in the area?’ The answer is extraordinary: it tells supporters that they should leave out food for foxes.

‘Sometimes food may be scarce, when cubs are being reared or during the winter, so providing small amounts could help and even give you a chance to watch them. 

‘If you want to provide some food, put out cheese, boiled potatoes, raw chicken pieces, bread and table scraps at dusk.’

Bruce Lindsay-Smith runs a company called County Pest Control, and has been dealing with urban foxes in and around London for 37 years. 

When I call him, he is on his way to the home of a chihuahua-owner in Hampstead to cull a fox who has been wandering into houses. He regularly deals with foxes who eat dogs, and says the problem is getting worse.

Not long ago, Lindsay-Smith dealt with a fox in Croydon that had attacked and killed two Yorkshire terriers in the same garden.
One ‘had been chewed to bits. All we could find of the other was the ribbon that used to be round its neck.’

Outrageous: The Brewsters were furious after being told they would be charged for animal cruelty if they shot the fox with an air rifle

Outrageous: The Brewsters were furious after being told they would be charged for animal cruelty if they shot the fox with an air rifle

Lindsay-Smith says: ‘Foxes do kill dogs and eat them. I’m talking about small breeds — miniature Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, pomeranians and so on. These attacks are much more commonplace than they used to be because foxes are becoming more brazen. Years ago, you might catch a glimpse of a tail disappearing through a hedge. Now they regularly go into houses.’

Why? Because people are feeding them. In other words, following the official advice of the RSPCA. ‘It is absolutely ridiculous that they are telling people what to feed foxes. I can’t imagine why they’re doing that. And leaving out food like that will also encourage rats. I would have thought they’d have more sense.’

He says the RSPCA appears more interested in the welfare of the urban fox — a pest — than our pets.

‘That is the way things are going. It’s so ridiculous. They’ve got a “live and let live” approach. But we need to remove foxes if they’re causing a problem to people’s pets.’

Klare Kennett, spokeswoman for the RSPCA, denies that the charity is letting down dogs by siding with the foxes that attack them.

‘That’s certainly not the case. The very fact we have a hospital there to treat pets for people on low incomes shows we care just as much about dogs and cats as we do about foxes.’

But she does admit their policy is to turn away owners who choose not to have animals castrated. ‘We believe that it’s the responsible thing for people to get their pets neutered,’ she says.

RSPCA treatment is subsidised, she says, for people on low incomes: ‘We don’t want people who breed animals for a living  coming in and getting free treatment. It’s not fair. They need to go to a [private] vet and pay. We have to prioritise.’ 

The Brewsters clearly do not see their pet Chico as a method of making money. Which is why they are so furious.

And what about that leaflet that recommends providing food for foxes? Bizarrely, Kennett claims the advice does not encourage feeding foxes and points out that the leaflet also gives tips to those who wish to deter foxes from their gardens.

None of this washes with the Brewsters, nor one suspects with any of the hundreds of owners whose pets are likely to be attacked this year — partly as a result of the attitude of a charity that boasts: ‘We’ve been here looking out for animals since 1824.’

But when the RSPCA’s spokeswoman says that it cares ‘just as much about dogs and cats as it does about foxes’, aren’t we entitled to respond: shouldn’t it care more about our pets than about the animals which prey on them? Surely foxes are pests?

Isn’t that what the millions who have donated to the charity over the years would want? ‘You call them pests,’ says Ms Kennett, ‘but as far as the RSPCA is concerned wild animals are as important as pets. We don’t want to be species-ist.’

Happily, it looks like Chico will make a full recovery. But while he recuperates, Milly and her family have a new word to mull over.

The next time your dog is attacked by a wild fox, remember that it’s  ‘species-ist’ to expect the RSPCA to do anything about it.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Let us not ignore the fact that every new town, housing estate, industrial estate are all built on what was a fox’s hunting ground. Just a thought.


28/5/2013 08:14

the RSPCA are more interested in whatever makes them most money and gains most publicity. they are simply another morally-corrupt business that uses animal welfare as a leverage.

John Adams

Preston, Lancs,
28/5/2013 08:08

urban foxes do need to be controlled how about when RSPCA treats a fox they are castrated, but somehow I don’t think they will do that!


28/5/2013 08:07

reading this news item is the reason I stopped donating to the RSPCA the organisation so so politically motivated now everyone should stop donating to them.


Stevenage, United Kingdom,
28/5/2013 08:07

agree with dh ,durham.another bad publicity rspca story which will be twisted into a fox hunting story.


28/5/2013 08:05

thats it… the rspca will get no more money of me


28/5/2013 08:04

If you want to support the call for an investigation into the RSPCA and its use of donations please sign the e-pétition on the Cabinet Office website.


28/5/2013 07:57

The RSPCA are all about the money – what they actually know about animals could be written on the head of a pin with plenty of room to spare. Disgraceful organisation.

Hedge Witch

England, United Kingdom,
28/5/2013 07:52

I used to donate money with a monthly direct debit to the RSPCA but heard so many bad things about the charity, that I have now cancelled it, as they appear to have their priorities all wrong! I love animals dearly, and thought the charity was doing a good job for them, but recent things I have heard of have changed my mind!!


Cornwall, United Kingdom,
28/5/2013 07:51

RSPCA correct. A fox is a wild animal and will hunt small animals for food. Perhaps people expect it to wear a suit and tie and turn vegetarian?

Dave Nelson

28/5/2013 07:51

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