Charles Darley has quit as interim CEO of Cats Protection after a “breakdown of trust” with trustees, just three months into a year-long contract.
Darley said he handed in his resignation after raising concerns about governance relating to the charity's chair, Linda Upson, housing 18 cats in her three-bedroom house.
Darley said he was worried that this goes against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) cat welfare code of conduct. Darley also claims this might not comply with the Animal Welfare Act guidance either, which states cats require “sufficient space to be alone”.
DEFRA guidance states: “A cat may suffer if they cannot avoid other cats they do not like or has to undertake activities such as sharing food bowls or litter trays […] keeping too many cats together can result in a stressful and unhealthy environment, which may make it difficult for you to meet the individual needs of your animals.”
Cats Protection's website tells cat owners that they “have a legal duty of care to provide for your cat's needs, which includes their need to be housed with or apart from other animals”.
Impossible to change the culture
Darley said that when he raised the matter it was only partially investigated by a subcommittee, led by the deputy chair.
In early January, Darley said he set out governance reforms, which were not welcomed by trustees. He concluded that “it was impossible to change the culture” or deliver the charity's new strategy under these circumstances.
In addition, Darley said trustees had rejected proposals for a trustee’s code of conduct.
Darley said: “It is ironic that the chair and deputy chair of the UK's leading cat rehoming charity would rather lose a veteran CEO than rehome some of their own cats to meet agreed DEFRA welfare standards”.
Process to recruit a new CEO 'shortly'
A Cats Protection spokesperson told Civil Society News: “We can confirm that Charles is departing the charity and the process to recruit a new CEO will be getting underway shortly.”
When asked to comment on these allegations, the spokesperson said: “I’m afraid we’re unable to comment further at this time.”
According to the charity's website, Upson has been a member of Cats Protection for 30 years and chair since 2017. It describes her as living with a “large family of cats, all of whom have been adopted from Cats Protection”.
The charity's annual income is around £70m and it employs about 1,000 people. It operates through a network of around 250 branches.