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STARescue founder Shirley King forced to hand 50 cats over to RSPCA
FIFTY cats have been taken away after a well-known Basingstoke animal rescue centre was swooped on by the RSPCA.
Officers from the animal welfare organisation took away cats housed by the charity STARescue, in Montserrat Road, Popley on Tuesday afternoon.
STARescue founder Shirley King said she was “living a nightmare” as animal welfare officers removed 50 cats that had been rescued by the charity and were waiting to be re-homed.
RSPCA inspector Jan Edwards said the decision to take the animals away was because “their welfare needs were not being met”.
Staff from the RSPCA first visited the terraced home on Monday following a complaint from a member of the public. A vet with the RSPCA then looked over the animals.
Mrs King, 65, was given the option to “sign over” the cats to the charity, or risk the police taking possession of them. She decided to sign them over.
Speaking to The Gazette on Tuesday, Mrs King, a former RSPCA Basingstoke branch manager from 1987 to 1996, said she was “devastated” by the removal of the cats.
“I want them back,” she said. “It is going to be a nightmare tonight and I am very, very sad. My volunteers are absolutely gutted.
"The RSPCA staff have removed the animals because they thought they were not in a safe environment, but all these cats are in a safe environment, fed regularly, they all get on together and they have all the treatments that are necessary.”
Four officers from the RSPCA spent more than four hours, with the help of Mrs King, tagging, photographing and removing the animals. A number will visit a vet for a health check, before being re-homed.
Mrs King was allowed to keep other animals that were in her home, including 22 rabbits and four guinea pigs.
Insp Edwards said the animals would not be put down, unless advised by a vet on medical grounds. “It would be a veterinary decision,” she said.
“The animals have been signed over to the RSPCA. We had a vet out earlier and the cats had to be removed for their welfare.”
She added that any decision to prosecute Mrs King would be the decision of RSPCA headquarters.
However, volunteers and supporters of STARescue said they were “disgusted” by the actions of the RSPCA.
One volunteer, who asked not to be named, said Mrs King had “done a fantastic job for so long”. The 50-year-old, from Kempshott, added: “I am disgusted with the RSPCA and sad for Shirley.”
And Kim Anderson, 52, from Brookvale, Basingstoke, said she has homed two cats rescued by Mrs King.
Kim added: “I have had cats off Shirley and they have been brilliant. I am just sorry I did not take any more.
“She does sterling work – she’s just brilliant. I don’t know how she has the stamina – she must have saved thousands of animals over the years.”
Mrs King has been rescuing animals for more than 25 years, and STARescue became a registered charity in June 1999.
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