ANIMAL activists say perceived “uncertainty” around the restructure of RSPCA Tasmania is causing more individuals to take animal welfare matters into their own hands.
Earlier this month the RSPCA urged people not to resort to vigilantism after individuals removed horses from a property under RSPCA investigation in the state’s south, forcing the case to be abandoned.
Those involved had responded to images posted on Facebook of a malnourished horse at the property and encouraged one another to take action, resulting in the potentially illegal activity.
Animal Liberation Tasmania president Kristy Alger said parts of the community were losing faith in the RSPCA’s ability to investigate animal welfare matters due to the restructure that had seen two shelters close.
“In these times it is not to be wondered at that individuals have turned to social media as a means to effect positive outcomes for animals at risk,” she said.
“Unfortunately social media can be unwieldy; however it remains an effective tool in creating change on a broader scale within the community.”
The woman who shared the image of the malnourished horse on Facebook had previously unknowingly purchased him from an individual who had themselves stolen it, and the horse was returned to its owner where he encountered neglect.
The RSPCA had been investigating the matter when horses were again taken from the property.
Ms Alger said while it was the wrong course of action, she understood why people were losing patience.
“The RSPCA is largely reliant on donors, but if people are uncertain about their role in investigations then their base will drop off and donations will decrease,” she said.
“A lot of people have become disillusioned because the minister in charge is invariably an individual involved in animal agriculture.”
The RSPCA’s investigative role in Tasmania was altered several years ago when Biosecurity Tasmania was given the power to investigate commercial production animals.
A spokesperson for the Environment Department said the powers of the RSPCA and Biosecurity Tasmania were clear.
“An agreement between Biosecurity Tasmania and the RSPCA Inspectorate Service does not cast any uncertainty over roles – in fact it sets a clear structure that the RSPCA is the first point of contact for all animal welfare complaints, with complaints about commercial production animals referred to Biosecurity Tasmania for investigation,” he said.
RSPCA inspectorate manager Lisa Edwards said the organisation would always appreciate greater investigative resources, but the reliance on donations meant they had to be realistic about their capacity.