The National SPCA (NSPCA) has expressed relief after charges against it were dropped as the legal proceedings could have seen the animal welfare organisation close its doors.
In 2016, Brian Boswell of Boswell Circus brought a civil case against the NSPCA claiming loss of income, which he said was caused by the rescue organisation after it spoke out against the use of wild animals in performances.
Boswell sued the organisation for more than R16million, plus interest for loss of income.
NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson said it took notice of the circus after videos of elephants being abused started doing the rounds.
“We didn’t take any animals away, but we put pressure on them to stop using them.
‘‘They alleged forced removal, but we saw they did decide to stop using elephants,” Wilson said.
Following cancellations of and poor attendance at shows in certain towns due to public outcry, Boswell instituted legal action, blaming the organisation for loss of income and the alleged forced removal of wild animals from the circus performances.
The NSPCA defended the matter by filing legal papers and also called for financial documentation and further information from Boswell, who was required to prove loss of income.
Wilson said it is thought Boswell dropped the charges as he was not able to prove the loss of income.
“We are relieved because financially it would have meant we would have to close our doors.
‘‘It was a large amount of money and it is a relief for us,” Wilson said.
Boswell not only withdrew the case but also paid for the NSPCA’s legal fees.
“The NSPCA is opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses and travelling menageries and have voiced this opposition due to the unnatural conditions that wild animals are forced to live in.
“More than the unnatural confinement and extensive road trips, these animals are trained and forced to do circus acts, the methods used are often inhumane,” Wilson said.
She added while it was a win for the organisation, it was also a win for the animals.
“Our position is clear.
‘‘It is in our statement of policy, we will continue to oppose the use of wild animals in circuses and travelling (collections of captive animals), we will continue to defend those animals that are forced to live unnatural lives, and we will continue to implore the public to not support any show or facility where wild animals are compromised in any way - be it physically or mentally.”
Boswell is owner of the Natal Zoological Gardens in Pietermaritzburg.
Boswell was not willing to comment when approached yesterday.