Animal charity faces its biggest crisis as it faces criticism from its members and the Charity Commission
Regulatory action will be imposed on the RSPCA unless it makes urgent changes to the way it is being run.
The Charity Commission, the regulator for England and Wales, says it may impose new management on the animal welfare charity over a series of failings which the organisation has failed to address.
The intervention comes after Jeremy Cooper, its chief executive, suddenly resigned last week.
Critics say the body has become too aggressive against pet owners and has taken a strong militant stance on many policy issues, such as fox hunting.
Cooper apologised for the charity’s abrasive campaigning saying there would be changes but suddenly left after just over a year in post.
Now the charity, which has an income of over £140 million a year, faces a fight for survival.
Despite being dedicated to animal welfare, the RSPCA has a wide and divided membership some of whom are pro-bloodsports.
Bill Oddie, the RSPCA’s vice president, said: It’s not a good thing changing chief executives. I have sympathy with the RSPCA because they have to tread so carefully. There are a lot of members and council members who are very sensitive about its image. I would think he [Jeremy] didn’t play well with the council members.
"I have never associated the RSPCA with anything embarrassing so I don’t know why he was saying sorry.
“It is not good they are going through chief executives so quickly.”
The RSPCA’s has a governing council made up of 25 volunteer trustees, of whom 15 are elected by its membership.
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “The governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity and we are concerned about the impact on public confidence.
“This has been brought into focus by the departure of the chief executiveand the clear recommendations of the charity’s independent governance review, which the commission requested the charity carry out.
“We have written to the charity to make clear that we expect to see a swift action plan against these recommendations, which we will formally monitor, in order to resolve these issues. We will consider what further regulatory action may be required should improvements not be made with the necessary urgency.”
Michael Ward, the RSPCA's interim chief executive, said: “I would like to reassure members that at the society it is very much business as usual. Some media reports have been incorrect: Jeremy leaves us on a sound financial footing and finances have improved in recent years due his work and that of our trustees.
“We will continue to implement our ambitious five year strategy, which sets out how we will seek to improve animal welfare and prevent animal cruelty by continuing to modernise our organisation.
“Having been at the society for seven years, serving as its head of finance and later of director of resources, I am very proud of the great work our staff across England and Wales do to help animals and people.
"Continuing that work successfully with the support of the public remains our prime focus.
“Regarding the review of the society’s governance, the trustees are working closely with the Charity Commission and the findings will be published shortly.”