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NEF Pays Tribute To Kirsty Withnall

1 month ago

9th May, 2024 11h35


Sir Colin Spedding Award 2024 Winner, Kirsty Withnall, sadly passed away on Sunday 21st April 2024, following a long illness.

Kirsty was awarded the Sir Colin Spedding Award by HRH The Princess Royal, on Thursday 7th March 2024 at the 32nd National Equine Forum (#NEF24), in recognition of her tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

The NEF Convener Dr Georgina Crossman said: “Kirsty made an outstanding contribution to animal welfare, which we were honoured to recognise at #NEF24.  She was the lead inspector for many welfare cases, spearheading the collaborative, multi-agency approach first seen in 2008 during the Spindles Farm case in Amersham. 

“Kirsty delivered the Forum’s Memorial Lecture in March 2020, entitled ‘Multi-agency collaboration in equine welfare cases’ where she eloquently described the horrendous conditions encountered at Spindles Farm and the process she led, to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Kirsty has left a lasting legacy, both through all the animals she helped and the collaborative approach she forged, which has been used in other cases since, and will continue to be utilised.

“On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Kirsty in preparation for her lecture at #NEF20, and again for the #NEF24 Spedding Award.  She was a force for good, always supportive and positive, and will be missed across the animal welfare sector.

“The National Equine Forum extends our love and best wishes to Kirsty’s family and friends.”

Kirsty was an RSPCA Inspector for 23 years, initially as an Equine Officer, before becoming a Case Officer within the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU), providing an overt uniformed response on behalf of SOU and conducting specialist criminal investigations into serious, organised or commercial animal cruelty. The lead officer in numerous large, complex, high-profile equine and multi-animal welfare cases, Kirsty showed great tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. She was the linchpin in many large-scale operations, where coordination and cooperation with numerous agencies was vital in securing safe and efficient rescue for equines and other animals, including one of the largest horse rescue cases of all time at Spindles Farm, Amersham in 2008.

Kirsty was a Director of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) for four years.  As well as her work on equine welfare cases, she was also involved in many others, including puppy-farming, dog fighting and cock fighting.  She was named in a novel by Peter James, published in 2023, which focused on the puppy trade.  Kirsty made an unparalleled contribution to animal welfare in the United Kingdom; her passionate care for all the animals she was involved with shone through.

Kirsty is survived by her husband and two children.


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