Why did RSPCA Queensland charge Soquilichi Rescue Ranch Inc.?
In this particular investigation, the foster carer gave evidence to RSPCA that she agreed to take two mother cats with litters that were healthy, because she did not want to compromise the health of her own cat and kitten. She had never fostered for Soquilichi before.
RSPCA Inspectors obtained evidence that the following night, 21 cats - including a number of sick, underweight and otherwise compromised cats and kittens - were delivered to the foster carer’s place. This was on a hot evening, after the cats had allegedly been confined for hours in cages where they had urinated and defecated, in a car, with two Soquilichi representatives and a dog.
The cats had been in the care of the Soquilichi representatives prior to this. Less than a week earlier, a report was received that these Soquilichi representatives were housing around 100 cats; many in carriers and cages covered with a tarpaulin, at their residence several hours north of the foster carer’s house. That report sparked an investigation by authorities (there was no RSPCA Inspector in that area) and the need for the cats to be removed from the residence.
In this particular investigation, there were allegedly no instructions left with the foster carer, no veterinary history for the cats provided, and no food or flea treatments. The cats and kittens were, according to witnesses, ‘riddled with fleas’ and showed signs of illnesses; including ringworm, diarrhoea and cat flu. Many were obviously underweight and their coats were tufted, indicating dehydration. Two sick kittens were handed over with advice to ‘not worry about them as they would be unlikely to survive the night’. One kitten’s eye ‘fell out’ a short time later, and the second eye ended up being lost as well (pictured below).
The foster carer was overwhelmed and in tears. She had done foster work before for another organisation, but had never been in this situation. She called a friend for help. She set the cats up with food and water. She later told Inspectors that the cats drank litres and litres of water overnight, and ate ravenously, consuming a large quantity of cat food.
The foster carer bathed some of the cats the next day to remove faeces from their coats. She requested flea treatment, and someone from Soquilichi dropped in an extra-large dog Advantage with advice to give small dosages to share around the cats and kittens. When RSPCA Inspectors later asked the Soquilichi president about their cats and kittens, very little information was provided about their care before they were delivered to the foster carer, or any veterinary treatment provided to them. The president did not accept responsibility for the alleged neglect of the animals, stating “RSPCA is trying to make it out that I neglected animals that weren’t even in my care”.
The president declined to talk to the Inspectors anymore and lawyers later advised that no board members would speak with the RSPCA Inspectors at all.
As the president of Soquilichi was not taking responsibility for the care of animals that were not directly in her care, and reassurances could not be obtained from other board members, RSPCA Inspectors held concerns for other animals in foster with the organisation, and they decided that animal welfare concerns identified with the seized cats and kittens should form the subject of an application to prosecute. This application was then submitted to the prosecutions committee and after careful consideration, was approved.