The boss of one of Britain’s best-loved animal charities has stepped down for health reasons.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant has left with immediate effect “because of medical concerns about his health”, the charity said.
Mr Grant joined the animal welfare charity in January 2012, but during his short tenure it faced a number of controversies.
In 2012 the RSPCA was heavily criticised after it emerged that it had spent £326,000 on legal action against a fox hunt.
Critics claimed the ”staggering” expense of bringing the prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt in the Cotswolds was a waste of the money donated to the charity by members of the public.
Mr Grant was forced to deny that the prosecution was “political”.
He also faced questions over his salary after the charity’s annual accounts showed that he earned between between £150,000 and £160,000.
The Daily Mail reported that Mr Grant was paid between £30,000 and £50,000 more than his predecessor, Mark Watts.
Amid the controversy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, turned down a request to become a patron of the charity – breaking a long-standing tradition between the charity and the Church. His predecessor, Dr Rowan Williams, was vice-patron of the RSPCA, which was founded by Anglican priest the Rev Arthur Broome in 1824.
The RSPCA said Mr Grant had been “instrumental” in raising the profile of the charity.
When he joined the charity in 2012 it was the second time he had worked for the RSPCA – between 1988 and 1991 he was its director of campaigns and communications.
Mr Grant said: “It has been a huge honour to have held this post. The RSPCA is a magnificent organisation at the heart of what is the very best in humanity.
“The society is blessed with great people, both paid and volunteer. I wish it well as it continues to face huge challenges in ensuring it is ever stronger and able to meet the needs of our fellow creatures.”
RSPCA chair of trustees Mike Tomlinson said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gavin on behalf of myself and my fellow trustees for the very significant contribution he has made to the society for a second time in his career.
“His drive, passion and deep love and respect for animals have impressed all that have come into contact with him.
“I would like to assure everyone that our day-to-day work for animals continues as usual. The society’s trustees will announce next steps regarding recruitment of Gavin’s successor in due course.”