The acting chief executive of Cats Protection has stepped down three months into a 12-month contract due to ‘deep-rooted governance issues’ relating to the number of cats the charity’s chairman has cared for.
Charles Darley said relations between him and Linda Upson and Vice President Angela Swarbrick broke down after he raised concerns that Upson was keeping 18 cats in a three-bedroom house.
Darley said Third sector that five other small animal welfare charities and the Association of Dogs & Cats Homes were consulted about this and they concluded that they generally could not support keeping 18 cats in a home at three beds for welfare reasons.
He said he raised the matter with the board, but it was only partially investigated by a subcommittee led by Swarbrick.
Darley said Swarbrick failed to properly inform administrators of the government’s cat welfare guidelines referenced in the Animal Welfare Act, which states that cats “should be able to exhibit normal behaviors and all need to be housed with or apart from other animals”.
He said administrators would not review whether the chair’s three-bed house was suitable for 18 cats and said Swarbrick and the subcommittee were simply seeking assurances that Upson would not add more cats at his home.
Darley said Cats Protection was the only major animal charity in the UK to consider and reject the idea of adopting a code of conduct for directors.
He said two auditing firms shared his view that the charity should have a code of conduct for directors and an animal welfare audit of cat foster families, which he said said the “board of directors has stalled for several years”.
He said he laid out good governance requirements to fix the issue on Jan. 6, but that was not well received by administrators.
Darley said this led him to conclude that it was impossible to change the culture and implement the charity’s 10-year strategy, which is repositioning Cats Protection as a charity for the cat welfare for the 10 million cats in the UK, in the absence of fiduciary support.
Darley said he was concerned for the welfare of the cats, but also for the reputation of the charity if it became known that his chair was keeping so many animals in his home.
“Obviously, from a leadership perspective, this is a disaster for the welfare of the cats, as we are trying to ensure that other volunteers meet the correct standards of welfare in their private homes. while they take care of the cats,” he said.
Darley joined the charity in October as interim successor to James Yeates, who left in September to take up the leadership role at the World Federation for Animals, an international membership body for animal welfare organizations .
Asked to comment on the points raised by Darley, a spokesperson for Cats Protection said: ‘We can confirm that Charles is leaving the charity and the process of recruiting a new chief executive will begin shortly.’