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Posted: 9th May 2024

Tributes paid after death of “exceptional” RSPCA inspector
Ms Withnail had a passion for horses and recently received the Sir Colin Spedding Award.
Kirsty Withnail worked on several major investigations.

Charities and former colleagues from across the animal welfare community have paid tribute to Kirsty Withnail, an award-winning RSPCA inspector, following her death from cancer at the age of 47.

During her time at the RSPCA, which began when she applied to train as an inspector at 22 years old, Ms Withnail played a crucial role in some of the charity’s biggest investigations and rescue operations.

In 2008, she was involved in the rescue more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys from Spindle Farm in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Ten years later, she led a three-year investigation into fraudulent puppy dealing in London, helping to bring to justice a gang which had made £2.5m from selling more than 5,000 puppies.

More recently, Ms Withnail was involved in the RSPCA’s investigation into an international dog-fighting network which organised fights across England, the Republic of Ireland, and France. Four people were convicted for their involvement last month.

Her work led to her receiving the Sir Colin Spedding Award, presented by the Princess Royal, at the National Equine Forum earlier this year. The award recognised Ms Withnail ‘for her tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals’.

RSPCA Special Operations Unit chief inspector Will Mitchell said: “Kirsty was an exceptional investigator and rescuer, a fierce advocate for animal welfare, and a wonderful colleague and friend. She never failed to dazzle people with her unwavering commitment to improving animal welfare and her relentless tenacity to bring justice to animal abusers.

“They broke the mould when they made Kirsty and she was a trailblazer and a huge influencer for the way we investigate cruelty. She was a fearless and formidable investigator while also ensuring she showed every single animal and human who crossed her path complete empathy, kindness and compassion.”

Ms Withnail was also a board member of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC). Ruth Court, NEWC vice-chair, said: “Kirsty really was an incredible hero for animal welfare, fighting to see justice done on so many occasions. But even more than her outstanding achievements, which really were extraordinary, we were proud to call her our colleague and our friend.”

Image © RSPCA

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