Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And another rabbit!

She's medium sized and fawn coloured. Taken to Vet24 by someone who found her wandering just after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More and more cats!

Pretty apricot tortie brought to Cambridge Veterinary Group on Cherry Hinton Road and a black and white tom cat at Arbury road vets. The tortie is fairly well except for a probable thyroid condition and the tom cat has a fractured pelvis which they think will just need cage rest. They're keeping both cats in for a few days to see how they go.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Update on Santa and Sox

Good progress report for Sox (the current blocked bladder kitty), who's doing well following his operation and has an excellent chance of being able to live a normal life from now on, except that he will always need to be kept on a diet of wet food with no dry kibble. Not so good for Santa (collar wound), as the injury has opened up again and will probably need to be closed with a skin graft.

Nice, peaceful Christmas day

Wonderful! No calls at all. After the Christmas Eve frenzy I was bracing myself for even more impossible to solve calls over Christmas day itself, but fortunately it seems that everyone managed to have their disasters beforehand.

The animal clinic will be open as normal on Tuesday, closed on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, then back to normal opening times.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas Eve blues

Kicked off to a cracking start (excuse bad pun) with a kitten with probable broken bones in one foot (plant pot fell on his toe). As there's no RSPCA clinic session now until Saturday I agreed with the private vet that it wasn't fair on the kitten simply to give pain relief and wait until then, so we covered x-ray and support bandaging as well. If the x-rays suggest that the foot actually needs surgery the owner will go to our clinic on the Saturday.

Followed in short order by a vomiting dog (probably just an upset tum as she is fairly current with her vaccinations).

Next, and more worrying, an ownerless cat from Swavesey area with diarrhoea. She's not seriously ill, and the 24 hour vet was reluctant to have her occupying a cage over the whole of the break as the space will probably be needed for emergencies. The kennels where we board is completely full until some of the private boarders go home, and this is academic in any case as no-one is available for transport as Janine's car won't start. After some frantic phoning, I asked the vet to call the finder and ask if she would be prepared to have her back until after Christmas now the diarrhoea's been treated. To everyone's relief she was very understanding and drove in to pick up the cat. Annoyingly this one actually has been chipped, but it seems to have been done in America and none of the chip databases have any record of her owner's current address. Best guess is that she originally came from one of the bases and was either rehomed in Swavesey or got there by accident after hiding in a vehicle of some kind.

Santa, the cat with the collar wound is doing well, but needs to stay in for the moment as his wound is still draining. Yet another cat with a blocked bladder has been signed over to us as his owner couldn't cope and he's had his operation too and is also looking good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And a kitten!

She's about nine weeks old, and black with white feet. Found in Isleham and taken to Swayne & Partners vets. She's not injured or ill, and if she'd been older we'd have suggested that she be returned to the place she was found, as it's most unlikely that a healthy adult cat in good body condition is lost or in trouble unless there are other factors (such as being found shut in a vehicle) which suggest a problem. That's not appropriate for such a small kitten, so we're boarding her at the vets over Christmas and will move her to our kennels in the new year if her owner doesn't turn up in the meantime. 

I'm wondering whether she belongs to someone staying at the marina for Christmas and managed to get out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays - Summer ones, that is

If you plan to spend part of your Christmas break looking through catalogues of exotic places, please bear in mind that your pets' holiday arrangements need to be booked well in advance too. My spare room has two extra Christmas "guests" whose owners didn't realise that all local boarding kennels would be completely booked up a fortnight before the start of the break.

On the plus side, this has forced me to bite the bullet and relocate Nicholas to a pen in a busier part of the house and his neurotic reaction shows how necessary it was. After a day on hunger-strike, he's still complaining bitterly, but wolfing down his dinner and using his litter tray. He's still completely unaggressive, just very unhappy about enforced proximity to people. He must have been socialised at some point, because it's perfectly possible to pick him up (trembling like a leaf), and he makes eye contact when he cries asking to go back upstairs. After a bit of grumbling, "Why is that Cat making All That Noise," my own cats are ignoring him, which is a relief.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spoke too soon!

Now, it's another stray at Swayne & Partners in Newmarket with a broken pelvis. He's a large, neutered black cat.

Update on white cat

Her owner has turned up, so that's one less to worry about over the Christmas break.

Andrew's Christmas window display at the bookshop

And another cat

This one sounds as if she may have an owner somewhere out there. She's adult, but fairly young, mostly white, with some black markings. She was taken to Stone Lane Vets in Meldreth last night after being hit by a car. They think she has head injuries, which will probably clear up with nursing care over the weekend, but she probably also has a fractured foreleg. Plan is for them to see how the head injury goes and x-ray the leg on Monday if she's fit enough then to give a general anaesthetic.

External fixators

The Vet Nurse has an interesting post showing "before and after" radiographs of a puppy's broken leg fitted with an external fixator to keep the two ends of the bone in alignment so that they will heal. I thought I'd link to it so anyone interested can see what's actually going on when I talk about animals we take in having an external fixator on a broken leg. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rabbit behaviour

Just been reading the coverage of the case in Hampshire involving a very large number of rabbits which was finalised in November. One very striking (and alarming) feature of the comments on the case is the number of people who believe that:
  • Rabbits are solitary.
  • Rabbits don't need exercise.
  • Rabbits don't need to be vaccinated.
  • Rabbits don't need to be neutered
So, I thought I'd post a few videos culled from YouTube and Google Video showing what rabbits can do if they're given the chance (the New Zealand white in the last clip could teach some dogs a thing or two about obedience training).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Switch on Radio Cambridgeshire tomorrow morning

Janine, our homing co-ordinator will be on Radio Cambridgeshire tomorrow morning (Thursday) being interviewed in their mobile van about the problem of long-stay dogs in general and Ghost in particular. 

Poor Ghost is our longest-staying dog. He nearly found a home earlier in the year, but unfortunately it fell through at the last moment. 

Ghost will be "interviewed" along with Janine (not sure if he barks on cue). It should be on-air around 7.30 am, but if you miss the live version, you should be able to get the interview via the BBC's listen-again option on the web (look for the breakfast show).

Here's hoping the poor little guy gets lucky this time.

Another cat with a collar wound

Call from Arbury road vets to say they've just taken in a stray cat with a badly infected collar wound that will need surgical repair to close it. He's another entire male, but fortunately has tested negative for FIV/FeLV. He'll need to be transferred to the clinic tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Update on Nicholas

Had his x-ray yesterday and all looks fine. Still terrified of vets, though. Poor little chap sat there shaking so much they decided trying to check whether his heart murmur is real or not was pretty pointless. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

184 Mill Road Closing Down Sale

All items out on display are now £1. Call by to pick up some fantastic bargains (and to save me from spending this Christmas carting stuff between shops. Last Christmas we shifted all the books into the larger sales area at 188 and it nearly finished off the lot of us).

We hope to see you throughout 2009 at the bookshop, which continues at 188 Mill Road and later in the year at much improved and expanded premises nearer the centre of town. We're still in discussions with the agents about the lease agreement for the new shop, so keep watching this space.

184 was in the nature of a trial of the possibility of a specialist vintage clothing charity shop to maximise the revenue potential from clothes donations. We think it's demonstrated that the idea will work; but not on Mill road, which doesn't get a high enough volume of potential purchasers on weekdays. In a more central position we'll be able to showcase our stock to the student and University population and to tourists.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On Vaccinations

The Vetnurse blog has a long and excellent piece about nursing dogs with parvo-virus. It isn't worth risking a dog's life in order to save the cost of vaccination. 

Whether or not animal charities should be prepared to help with the cost of vaccinations for owners on very low income has sometimes been a contentious issue. 

On the negative side: vaccinations are a predictable expense, unlike, say, a broken leg. If vaccinations are offered at charity-run clinics and hospitals, they are potentially competing for business with private vets. This is not just unfair to those vets: it might be harming the pet owners who need to use the private vet (by decreasing the number of private veterinary surgeries so that it's more difficult to find a local vet). 

On the positive side: £30 is a lot of money for someone on benefits of £60 or £70 a week. It's always likely that they will put off getting their pet vaccinated and just hope they'll get away with it. Providing low-cost vaccinations encourages more people to get their pets vaccinated, and reduces the spread of infections. This benefits other pet owners whose animals may be at risk in spite of being vaccinated, because they're very old, or very young, or have inefficient immune systems. 

As a courtesy to local vets RSPCA clinics are expected to consult them before offering a low-cost vaccination service. We did that several years ago when we first started providing vaccinations at the Cambridge clinic and, to their great credit, every one of them backed us in spite of the risk that they might lose money by it. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two cats abandoned

The vet nurse at Soham Pet Doctors turned up to start the day shift and found two young cats in a cardboard box sitting on their doorstep. They're about 6 months old and seem to have been well-cared for (and, to give the owner credit, they had at least been left where they were guaranteed to be found and looked after). 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cruelty Prosecutions

As the purely volunteer side of the RSPCA, we have comparatively little to do with prosecutions. If animals are signed over to the Society early on in the course of a case, then we may be asked to take them in for rehoming. If animals are confiscated by the court and transferred to the RSPCA at the end of a case, we may be involved. However, in general, we have no knowledge of ongoing investigations beyond what is available to the published media. This is as it should be, because investigation and prosecution is something which should only involve trained professional staff.

However, the campaign on the Petstreet site to stop the RSPCA carrying out prosecutions made me wonder about the way cruelty investigation and prosecution is organised in other countries. (I should point out that Petstreet don't want to stop cruelty to animals being treated as a crime; they simply want the process of prosecution to be restricted to the Crown Prosecution Service because they think the RSPCA is too willing to prosecute people.)

In Scotland, the SSPCA actually have statutory powers but this doesn't include the ability to take out prosecutions. The SSPCA's submission to Holyrood during the enquiry into the provisions needed for operation of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland Act) said:
"It is essential that the Scottish SPCA have use of these powers under Sections 29-32 in order to carry out the functions outlined above to relieve animals from suffering on a daily basis. Due to Scotland’s system of public prosecutions, unlike its counterpart in England and Wales the Scottish SPCA does not and cannot carry out private prosecutions. Like all prosecutions in Scotland, all prosecutions under the 1912 Act are pursued by the Procurator Fiscal, to whom the Scottish SPCA reports cases and not the Scottish SPCA itself. This will remain the case under the new Bill.
Without recognition under the new Bill, Scottish SPCA Inspectors would not have the same authority to report cases to the Procurators Fiscal as they do now. If the express powers under Sections 29-32 were to be given to local authorities and to the police, and not to the Scottish SPCA, a defence solicitor may well challenge Scottish SPCA evidence based on the manner in which the evidence was collected. This would be undesirable and damaging for animal welfare, for the prosecution of malefactors, and for the standing of the Scottish SPCA."
There appears to be some discontent among other animal welfare groups in Scotland who believe that the SSPCA is too cautious about using its powers.

The USPCA has no statutory powers and no citizen's right to prosecute

The legal situation in Australia appears to be virtually identical to that in England and Wales, with RSPCA Australia taking out private prosecutions, using the common-law right of ordinary citizens. Interestingly, there seems to have been a vociferous attempt to strip RSPCA Australia of its right to prosecute in the belief that this would lead to a higher, rather than lower, number of prosecutions of animal owners.

The New Zealand SPCAs have more statutory powers than any of the UK SPCAs (including the RSPCA):
"There are approximately 90 SPCA inspectors in New Zealand

Inspectors duties vary greatly depending on their locality but the priority for all inspectors is to enforce the Animal Welfare Act 1999

An inspector is issued a warrant by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry after successfully completing a series of assignments and examinations.

A warranted inspector has powers under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to enter at any time - by force if necessary - into any vehicle, aircraft, or vessel, or on any land or premises, for the purpose of inspecting any animal, where he is satisfied on reasonable grounds that an offence against [the Animal Welfare Act 1999] is being, or has been, committed in respect of any animal.

Inspectors can remove (seize) an animal and take it to a safe location while enquiries are made."
The New Zealand SPCAs take out private prosecutions in the same way as the RSPCAs in England and Australia.

The situation in the US is more complicated, because all the states have slightly differing animal cruelty laws. However the SPCAs and Humane societies do not take out private prosecutions (the citizen's right of private prosecution seems to have fallen into disuse). The normal course appears to be for the SPCA to call the local police and request them to investigate if they suspect animal protection laws have been broken. This appears to result in a relatively high acquittal rate. Part of the problem appears to be lack of resources; cruelty investigations may be shelved because other crime is considered more urgent, and they may be "hived off" to Animal Control, which is itself very over-stretched (rather as though cruelty complaints in this country all had to go via the dog warden). 

The CPS itself states:
"The right of individuals to bring private prosecutions (with certain exceptions) was included under the Prosecution of Offences Act, which set up The CPS. The CPS has the right to take over the prosecution and continued it; OR to take over the prosecution and discontinue it; OR to allow it to continue. The CPS recognises that the right to bring a private prosecution should remain and that The CPS should not take over a private prosecution unless there is a good reason to do so."
What's the lesson from all this? I would be unhappy if we ended up with the chaotic system we see in the US. Ironically the least complained-about system is the one where the SPCA has the greatest powers — possibly because the fact that SPCA inspectors are also sworn as law enforcement agents increases confidence that those powers will be used responsibly. Possibly the legal status also reduces criticism from groups who think the SPCA don't do enough to change the way animals are treated, because it's clearer that a quasi-statutory body can't go beyond what is acceptable to the majority of people (by advocating universal adoption of vegetarianism, for instance).

It seems that the position of RSPCA Australia is less similar to ours than I thought. 
"TICKY FULLERTON: One message councillors did receive came as a warning. The State Government relies heavily on the live trade economy. The RSPCA's $250,000 annual funding from government could be under threat.

YVONNE PALLIER: The chief executive was very clear to the council. He said that if we proceed... If we proceed with this prosecution, we will lose our government funding.

TICKY FULLERTON: He actually said that at a meeting?

YVONNE PALLIER: He said that. Mm-hm.

ERIC BALL: Uh, that's got to be put in perspective. What he said was that the council needs to recognise, needs to recognise, that if we succeeded in stopping the live export trade, you may well then alienate any funding from any State Government.

TICKY FULLERTON: If you succeeded in stopping the live export trade in Western Australia, wouldn't that be worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars?

ERIC BALL: Oh, yes, and he wasn't suggesting that we...we should be influenced by that. But he did say we need to recognise that not only will it cost us funds to prosecute, but it may also stop the future flow of funds. And that may be...may be important in our sustainability.

TICKY FULLERTON: Just last Friday, Eric Ball told Four Corners that the case was not closed. He has further reports to present to this week's council meeting. But there's another factor that could influence the decision - a fear that government could strip the RSPCA of its prosecution powers.

MARK PEARSON, ANIMAL LIBERATION: I asked Dr Hugh Wirth quite clearly, "Why is it that the RSPCA aren't proactively investigating, and when necessary, prosecuting intensive farming corporations for cruelty to animals?" And he said to me very clearly, "Well, look, Mr Pearson, if I were to do that - if the RSPCA were to do that - proactively as you say, we would lose our powers. The government would take away our powers as a prosecution authority."

DR HUGH WIRTH, RSPCA NATIONAL PRESIDENT: Well, it is true that the governments in Australia have in the last 15 years, uh, tightened up on who can prosecute and have tightened up on who can be an RSPCA inspector. And remember that Labor governments are throughout Australia now. Labor party policy is to remove all private organisations from enforcing criminal law."
That was in 2004, and seems to have been something of a nine-days wonder as I couldn't find any later references. 

The whole thing is a bit odd, because the people complaining RSPCA Australia was too subservient to government influence seem not to appreciate that this is not a very good argument in favour of making cruelty prosecution entirely dependent on the state. 

If you read the full transcript, you'll see there were also some complaints from the other side of the spectrum that RSPCA Australia was "emotional" and the five freedoms are anthropomorphic. 

It would be an interesting project for a law student to do a real in-depth comparison of all the different systems. 

Freedom Food

More on Freedom Food stocking density negotiations in Farmers Weekly Interactive.
Currently, Freedom Food egg flocks have a maximum external stocking density of 1000/ha. However, last month, Lion eggs announced that it was doubling its external stocking limit to 2000 birds/ha from 1 January 2009 and called on Freedom Food to follow suit. This is still below the 2500 birds/ha upper limit allowed under the EU marketing regulations.
It's worth reading it all to get a feel for the way Freedom Food standards are developed. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

November Figures

Just totted up the stats. for November. Altogether the branch provided low-cost treatments for 207 dogs, 111 cats, 14 rabbits and 7 miscellaneous animals. We neutered 10 dogs, 9 cats and 18 rabbits, and microchipped 4 dogs and 9 cats, and we rehomed 3 dogs, 9 cats and 3 guinea-pigs. 7 dogs, 4 cats and 2 rats had to be put to sleep on veterinary advice.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On money, myths, donations and dogs

The St Bernards saga has provoked the usual "how dare the RSPCA ask for donations" chorus over at Petstreet (which is actually an interesting site except for the way it's been taken over by people with axes to grind). I must confess that I only visit occasionally out of respect for my blood pressure. 

However, as it's Monday, I'll try to address a few of the perennial myths and misrepresentations.

National RSPCA funds. A figure of £200 million is always bandied about as if this was sitting in a bank account somewhere. In fact, just under half of this is the value of buildings used for RSPCA animal welfare activities (shelters, hospitals etc.). The rest is approximately the amount of money which would be needed to keep the RSPCA going for a year if something catastrophic caused income to dry up entirely. In reality, the society wouldn't just run for a year, then disband; the reserves would be used to buy time to close down everything except absolutely core activities, so that a reduced organisation could continue indefinitely.

Donating pet food instead of money. The reasoning behind this seems to be that by giving food, donors can ensure that their generosity doesn't simply go towards lining someone's pockets. The problem with this is that food is only relatively small proportion of the cost of caring for animals. If a large number of animals need to be taken in, they'd normally be spread about among a combination of animal homes owned and run by the National Society or its branches; ordinary private boarding kennels and volunteer fosterers. 

Donated food is very useful for our own animal homes and our fosterers (who would otherwise buy in food). It can be a bit of an imposition for private boarding kennels (because it means we're asking them to take an assortment of food, calculate its value, and knock the amount off their invoice to us). From their point of view, we're asking them to do extra work when it would be much simpler just to use their normal supplier. 

When you consider that we're probably also asking them to accept animals at odd hours; take animals to and from the vet, and deal with adopters asking to view animals you can see that it may not be sensible for us to ask them to use donated food as a way of saving money.

If you'd like to donate pet food, cat food is generally more useful than dog food (because cats are more likely to be fostered than dogs), and RSPCA-owned shelters are more likely to be able to make good use of food than branches who don't have their own animal centre.

You can find your closest RSPCA-owned animal centre via the main website. (Enter your own post code and pull down the menu to "Rehoming"). Most branches without animal centres rehome via private boarding kennels, and most animal centres use private kennels as "overflow" capacity.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Closing Dates

The Animal clinic will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Normal emergency cover arrangements will apply.
Charity shops will close at 3 pm on Christmas Eve, and re-open the day following New Year's Day. 184 Mill Road which will then be permanently closed (but volunteers will be busy sorting its remaining stock for storage until our new shop opens in February).

Winterfair results

The tombola raised £117.20 and was sold out in only two hours. Many thanks to Nicola, Sharon, Michael and everyone else who helped or bought tickets. It was perishing cold, so the helpers probably wouldn't have wanted to put in very much longer, but next year we'll try to collect enough items to keep going for at least three hours.
At the other end of Mill Road, Sue was doing a brisk trade with her veggie hot dogs, but no final total yet.
This was the last day 184 will be trading as a specialist clothing boutique and for the rest of the runup to Xmas it will be operating as a "pound stop" selling off the items that aren't good enough to keep in store until the new premises near the Grafton Centre are up and running.
Please look in for lots of excellent bargains.
The secondhand bookshop at 188 will continue and is the place to visit if you're in need of holiday reading to tide you over the Christmas break. Xmas cards are now in, and we also stock cotton "long-life" carrier bags as part of the drive to make Mill Road a plastic carrier free area.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pet Insurance woes again

It does make me cross. An owner who did the responsible thing and got her dog insured found that her policy was almost worthless because the insurers refused to pay out until they'd received a copy of the paid invoice from the vet, and the company employing her usual vet were insisting on payment up front. 

For many people this wouldn't be a big deal: they'd simply pay with their credit card and pay off the card when the insurer reimbursed them. This owner was on benefits (and kudos to her for putting aside the money to pay her insurance each month in the circumstances). Hopefully she will get at least something back on the policy, as she's eligible to use our clinic and will be able to claim reimbursement of the cost of having the dog's operation done there. That doesn't make it fair that she's had nearly a week of misery thinking the dog might die if she couldn't find a way to get the operation done.

Moral: read the small print before taking out pet insurance, and ask your vet to check their practice's policy on settling bills via insurance claims. 

More stocking fillers

The delightful series of animal books by Doreen Tovey have just been reprinted in paperback. 1% commission payable to the branch if you buy them from Amazon by following the links above. Best not read while drinking your tea as spluttering may occur as the hapless Toveys battle with recalcitrant Siamese cats and other animals.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charity Shops Mini-Survey

One of our main sources of regular income is the work of our three branch charity shops. 

As with many aspects of animal welfare, there are different (and bitterly-opposed) schools of thought about the best way shops should be organised in order to maximise income. In an attempt to get some feel for what potential shoppers actually do prefer I offer the survey below. Any and all responses much appreciated.


Samuel, the little terrier, now has a home.

Nicholas continues to eat for England. Still looking very pathetic (partly because his rear end was shaved for the surgery, so he looks like a mini-baboon), but he's progressed to loud wails of discontent whenever he thinks meals are due and he doesn't appear to have any pain at all now when he walks. I'm a bit concerned that he's still so shy; he's not at all aggressive or "spitty", but he hides in his igloo and peers out waiting until I've left the room before he will eat. I was hoping that he could go down to the kennels if his X-ray gives the all-clear next week, but he's not going to "sell" himself if he hides away. 

It might be better to move him to a pen in a more populous area of the house to encourage him to come out of his shell, but that's going to be a problem if Otto and Luigi (or any of the females come to that) decide to take exception to the presence of an entire male. I would really rather not share a home with cats who have decided they're cross enough to start spraying. Thistledown used to pee into electric sockets, which is dangerous; expensively wrecks the house electrics, and creates an aroma which does not give the right impression.

No news yet on the culture results for Darcy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Update on the St Bernards (from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph)

I should again stress that I don't have any inside information. However, this update has just appeared in my newsfeed for RSPCA items, and is from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph

Stocking Fillers

Superior crime novels by Nevada Barr, with the intriguing twist that they are each set in a different North American National Park, with the natural world playing the part of a major character in the plot. Each cover picture above links in to Amazon and we will get a small commission for each book purchased via the link.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Please don't phone about the St Bernards yet

I don't have access to any information beyond the published news stories and we are not one of the kennels which have been asked to take some of the dogs. Anyone interested in adopting one of them if they are transferred to the ownership of the RSPCA is probably best advised to keep checking the national website for further announcements. 

Please don't phone any of the emergency contact numbers as this will stop callers who need urgent help with sick or injured animals getting through.

There is absolutely no question of any of the dogs being put to sleep unless a vet advises that they are too ill to be treated, nor of other dogs being put to sleep to make space to house them.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Samuel, the little terrier cross with the broken pelvis, has had his operation and the vets say he's looking good and should be able to come out tomorrow or the day after. Janine has a possible home lined up and she's going to ask them if they'd be willing to have him for his month's cage rest as that would be much nicer for him than going into boarding kennels.

Nicholas, the cat with the broken pelvis, is still very timid, but eating like a horse and looking quite comfortable in his cat igloo.

The elderly cat at Swaynes vets is having further tests to try to find why he's so thin.

Darcy, the cat with pyothorax, still has some fluid in his chest, so they're going to drain it again and culture the pus for sensitivity in case the bacteria causing the infection are resistant to standard antibiotics. 

Yet another stray via Stone Lane Vets — a tabby and white neutered male about four years old. For a change he's got no apparent injuries or illness, but the finder is fairly certain that he's been left behind when his owners moved away.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Exciting breakthrough for US rabbits

Petco, one of the major US petstore chains, has announced that plans to phase out sales of pet rabbits in favour of in-store adoptions from rescue organisations. As in this country, rabbits are the third most popular pet in the States, and a huge headache for welfare organisations because so many become unwanted when buyers find out how expensive and difficult it can be to care for them properly. 

Unlike cats and dogs, low-cost spay/neuter provision for pet owners doesn't help very much because the majority of unwanted rabbits are not the result of unwanted litters born to pets, but the result of purchases of animals deliberately bred for the pet trade. If this comes off, it should be an important step in bringing the productivity of the rabbit population in line with the availability of good homes.  I believe it has the potential to be a win/win situation because rabbits are cheap, but the kit you need to keep them properly is expensive, to say nothing of vaccination, parasite treatment, etc. etc. Hopefully, PETCO will end up with a smaller number of genuine rabbit enthusiasts who spend more per individual rabbit owned.

Puppy Spam?

Has anyone else been getting emails that are ostensibly from someone who needs to rehome a litter of bulldog puppies because of family problems? We've had several, with slightly different variations on the story, and are wondering whether they're some kind of scam. Bulldogs are a comparatively rare breed and it would be very surprising to have several owners who'd bred one litter having family disasters in quick succession. Actually it would be surprising if a genuine breeder of pedigree bulldogs wasn't already in contact with other breed enthusiasts —the owner of the puppies' father, for starters — who would be able and willing to take on the job of placing the pups. 

Possible motivations might be:
  • They're spam adverts targeted at anyone with an animal-related web page from someone who's breeding bulldogs commercially but wants to give the impression that these are puppies reared in a domestic home. 
  • They're some kind of advance-fee fraud - hoping to get a payment before puppies are delivered.
  • They're not actually anything to do with dogs, and they're simply trying to provoke a response to verify that they've harvested a live email address.


Nicola transported bladder trouble cat 1 to the kennels last Friday and I'm hoping that the fact that they've not been in contact about him means he's not had any more problems.

Bladder trouble cat 2 (with the fractured pelvis) started peeing on Monday & I've now got him in my spare room in cat pen (back to the Vet School for a recheck X-ray in 2 weeks). They think the not-peeing was just because it hurt and that he's got no long-term medical problems. He's a very nice looking male (all black), was entire but the Vet School castrated him when they fixed his pelvis. Other than warning any new owner that he's got metal screws inside, which will show up on any future x-ray, he should do well. 

He ate his supper last night and used his litter tray, but still looks rather horrified when anyone comes in the room, poor little chap. Fear of vets seems to be a hazard for cats with pelvic fractures as they get quite a lot of very painful handling during the initial period of examination. My own Elsie has the embarrassing distinction of being banned by the vet unless she's really, really ill because she turns into an insane fear-biter at the surgery. At her last visit she had to be recaptured as she tried to exit through the window-glass by putting her carrier over her and sliding a board across the top, rather like someone catching a wasp with a drinking glass and a piece of card.

The vets phoned this morning to say that Darcy, the pyothorax cat, had a good night and looks quite bright. They'll do another x-ray of his chest on Monday.

The stray terrier has a broken pelvis, which they'll probably operate on today, but they are hopeful that his head injuries aren't serious as he seems brighter in himself. He'll need several weeks cage rest before he can go to the kennels for rehoming and we hope one of our fosterers will be able to take him.

If you might be interested in fostering animals for the branch, please email

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raining cats

We gave some financial help to treat a cat suffering from pyothorax at a private vet earlier in the week, but it became obvious to the vet that the cat's owners weren't going to be capable of dealing with the situation and she persuaded them that it would be in his best interest to be signed over to us for treatment and rehoming. As the cat was so poorly the private vet was keen to get him transferred to the Vet School hospital to give him the best possible chance, but this can be a convoluted process because of the terms of our agreement with them.

Basically this means incoming RSPCA animals must initially be presented at our clinic (because its teaching utility is the reason why the School give us such favourable charges). By Murphy's law it turned out that today was more or less the only one when none of our volunteer drivers was available. Finished up booking a morning's leave and taking a taxi from my home to the private vet; onward to the clinic; touch base there and on to the hospital. 

This annoying scenario in fact may have been for the best, as it meant I was on the spot when another set of cat owners appeared several hours after the deadline to admit RSPCA cases and with no money or proof of benefits. They'd come from Littleport and must have driven past about ten vets on their way to Cambridge. After some frantic phone-calls, I managed to get them an appointment with one of the vets in Ely later in the afternoon. The two cats definitely needed to be seen before our own next session as one of them had a crushing injury to his tail (owner's initial description of it "hanging off" was fortunately exaggeration) and his sister has a probable broken leg. 

Collected Nicholas (the cat with the pelvic fracture) in exchange for Darcy and his nasty infection.  Nicholas has been using his litter tray quite happily, so should be OK in a pen in my spare room for his two weeks enforced cage rest.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And another

Elderly ginger and white tom cat (they think neutered - they hadn't checked until I asked). He doesn't seem to be injured, just a bit doddery on his pins, so he may just have wandered out of his own garden and got chilled. 

Update on cat at Pet Doctors

He's doing well, and the person who originally found him is going to adopt him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Update on cat with dislocated hip

At least some good news for a change! Dislocated hip cat turns out to have an owner and is fully insured, so no further cause for concern about his treatment. It looks as though he's going to make a full recovery. Excellent. 

Injured stray dog

Not completely sure whether this was the result of miscommunication, lack of money or just general snafu. The 24 hour vet phoned last night to say someone had brought in an injured stray: probably from one of the local Traveller sites and probably hit by a car. The dog warden service normally only works 9-5, so I wasn't surprised to be asked if we'd help with funds for initial treatment. I asked the vets to contact the local dog warden service first thing in the hope that they'd be able to help with further costs, or at least provide transport to our clinic.

They did try, but were told South Cambs no longer has a dog warden service, which is very bad news if true. Their website still gives contact numbers, so this may just be temporary, or it may be that they simply don't have any funding to deal with injured dogs. By then all the volunteer drivers who might have helped with transport were otherwise occupied, so I asked the vet to use the pet taxi service to send the dog to the clinic to give him at least a chance rather than simply having him put down there and then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chris Nice on TV

Four days left to watch Chris Nice (our local inspector) dicing with death as he tries to rescue a trapped starling (via BBC i-player). 

Not a good weekend

Got up on Saturday morning and checked on fostered cats as usual only to find that Grace was having some kind of seizure. Phoned the emergency contact for the Vet School and took her straight down. They gave her diazepam to stop the fitting, put her on a warmed saline drip and took a blood sample to try to find out what had caused it. I was expecting them to find that she was uraemic, which basically means that kidney failure has caused a rise in toxins which should be eliminated in the urine, but no, her blood results weren't normal, but they weren't bad enough to explain the fitting either.

Because of her age I agreed there wasn't any point in doing an MRI scan as that costs £1,000 and she would have been very unlikely to survive a brain operation if it showed she had a brain tumour in any case. The most likely cause of the fitting was probably a small bleed or clot within the brain, for which supportive care in the hope that the body will heal itself is the only real treatment. 

Sadly they phoned later in the afternoon to say that she'd died. 

Earlier in the morning Pet Doctors phoned to tell me that the rabbit they treated on Friday had died during the night: sad, but not a huge surprise because rabbits are so delicate compared with cats and dogs, and because their digestive systems tend to shut down if any trauma stops them eating for any length of time.

Sad as Grace's death is, at least she had a couple of months' comfort in a (relatively!*) normal domestic setting with warmth and food that she enjoyed. It does reinforce my conviction that, if we are going to take in very old animals at all, we need to move heaven and earth to transfer them to foster or permanent homes rather than putting them into kennels.

*Tim Wass once described my squalid domestic arrangements as, Not somewhere he'd fancy having a cup of tea, but with dedicated care for the animals. Hmm.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Update on the bunny

They've done an X-ray and now think he may simply have a dislocated hip, so they're going to have a go at putting it back under sedation. 

and a rabbit!

Not looking too great, I'm afraid. He was picked up near Ely and taken to Pet Drs vets, but he doesn't seem to have the use of his back legs. He's a grey lionhead and has obviously escaped from someone's garden. They're giving supportive treatment in the hope that it's the effect of bruising that will heal with time as there doesn't seem to be any actual fractures to explain his inability to stand.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More cats again, and updates

Another traffic accident via Cathedral vets in Ely (dislocated hip, which they will probably pin there to avoid the need to transfer to the Vet School, then to the kennels) and another entire tom with septic fight wounds admitted at Pet Drs in Soham — fortunately testing FIV/FeLV negative.

The cat admitted to the Vet School hospital last week has had his pelvis plated and can walk fairly normally, but he still can't urinate without help. They think this is a temporary problem which will go away as the pelvic bruising heals up. He's not terribly happy in the hospital because it's very noisy and strange, so ideally we'd get him out to a foster home where he could get more peace and quiet, but it's difficult because it needs to be someone who's willing to be trained to express his bladder manually until he gets back normal muscle control.

Spirit, the blocked bladder kitty has been castrated and is FIV/FeLV negative and seems to be passing urine with no problems, so Nicola's planning to move him to the kennels tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freedom Food

Gave a short talk on the work of the local branch to Anglia Ruskin Student Animal Welfare Society and the validity of the Freedom Food scheme came up in the Q&A session afterwards. Looking back on this, I don't think I got across the significance of FF as a source of advice on best practice for farmers who genuinely want to improve animal welfare on their farms. The students mainly seemed to view it as a mechanism for checking up on farmers and catching them out (and universally wanted to press for more frequent inspections).

The audit aspect of any welfare acreditation scheme obviously is important (otherwise no-one knows whether farmers are complying with the standards and deserve premium prices), but I don't think the average person stops to consider the importance of the science and knowledge that goes into the development of standards in the first instance.

One of the most valuable (and comparatively little-known) features of Freedom Food is the iterative process by which standards are devised; studied in actual commercial use and then revised on the basis of the findings from those studies.

There's some information about this on the Bristol University Veterinary science website, and also the EU Welfare Quality site. The Guardian has an article relating just to the Freedom food standards for broiler chickens which illustrates why annual inspections might not be sufficient to catch individual acts of cruelty or indiference by workers, but would verify the farm's systems and processes.

Further thoughts
I suppose what I'm getting at partly is that some things (e.g. employee behaviour) do need spot checks, but a lot of the things that go towards improved welfare on farms aren't really likely to be whisked away once the assessor's back is turned. Buildings, for example don't need more than annual checks; and some aspects of good practice can be assessed by requiring record-keeping. Records might be forged, but if health records include veterinary visits, vaccination etc. deviation from the required standards would require collusion from an assortment of professional people with a reputation to lose.

More thoughts
Freedom Food is the only welfare-specific assurance/quality label scheme in Europe, and it was started before the similar schemes in the US. 

Bristol University has some example assessor recording forms and flow charts which illustrate what is being checked; it's not simply a matter of an inspector turning up and looking for examples of cruelty.

I think there are important parallels with Nathan Winograd's thoughts on how attitudes to humans can make animal advocates less effective at helping animals. If we assume that most other people are nasty, uncaring individuals who can never be trusted we end up alienating potential allies, wasting resources and ultimately failing to achieve progress. If we assume that other people are basically trustworthy and want to avoid cruelty, we may sometimes be deceived, but overall we'll make better gains even if we sometimes have to accept that not everyone shares our views about what constitutes good animal welfare.

Small Hedgehogs

The wildlife hospital at East Winch is having another large influx of young hedgehogs below the critical weight for safe hibernation. Hedgehogs need to be at least 500 grams (just over a pound) and preferably 600 (a pound and a quarter) to get through hibernation and late autumn litters often fail to make it before the weather gets too cold for them to feed successfully.

Young hedgehogs are one of the few wild animals who can be given effective help by non-experts: provided they are capable of eating solid food, it is feasible to give them a chance of survival by providing them with room-temperature warmth and a supply of cat or dog food (non-fish-based) and water. Milk is best avoided because it can cause diarrhoea.

Any hedgehog seen moving around during daylight hours is almost certainly in trouble, as they are quite strictly nocturnal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Update on the blocked bladder saga

Still doing well and the vets think he should be fit enough to be moved to the kennels on Thursday. To my amazement he's actually an entire (they think part of his problems may have been the result of being kept permanently indoors - boggle!), so I've asked them to neuter and vaccinate him before we move him as the kennels aren't keen on having un-neutered tom cats because of the smell.

Monday, November 17, 2008


We're still seeing cases of myxomatosis in pet rabbits, probably because of the unusually warm and humid weather. Unless the rabbit has been vaccinated this is almost always fatal. For best protection, rabbits need to be given booster vaccination every six months.  They may still get the disease, but will usually only suffer a mild infection, which should be thrown off with careful nursing.

Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects, including midges and mosquitos, so pets don't need to be in direct contact with wild rabbits to get the disease. Cambridge is a high-risk area, because of the large numbers of wild rabbits living on common land along the river and the streams which feed into it and on the chalk grassland areas of Cherry Hinton and the Gog Magog hills. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on special needs cat

I called in to collect medication for one of my own cats yesterday and the vet called me through to show me the FIV positive cat. He's a really handsome cat and very friendly. The lady who found him and has been feeding him really doesn't want to have to have him put to sleep, but she can't put her own cats at risk by having him back. 

To re-iterate Janine's post: anyone adopting him would need to be able to keep him away from cats who are not FIV positive, either indoors or in a secure run. He isn't currently showing any signs of a defective immune system, so he may remain healthy for many years.

If you might be able to help, please email

Further update on the blocked bladder saga

After discussion with the Vet School and the private vets who started his treatment we've agreed the best thing would be for him to stay at the private vet over the weekend to see how he goes on medication. If all is well by Monday and he's urinating normally with no signs of bleeding, we can probably think about transferring him to our kennels with a view to seeking a new home. If antibiotics aren't solving the problem, then we need to think about a transfer to our clinic (and from there to the Vet School Hospital) on Tuesday. 

A possible alternative would be to get him into Block Fen animal home as they have a vet nurse on the staff and a fully kitted-out surgery for animals on the site, but I phoned them today and they're completely full up at present. (If you're as mystified as I was by their Google map, which appears to show a shed in the middle of a field, I think the answer is that Google uses satellite pictures from quite a long time ago).

Meanwhile Richard thinks he's got the other cats sorted out. Their owner will keep two neutered females and the other two will be rehomed with her sister, who promises to get them neutered and to deal with their flea problem. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update on the blocked bladder saga

Well, Richard, our local inspector has visited the owner and persuaded her to sign the cat over to us for rehoming as she really isn't in a position to manage his ongoing condition. We're going to help her with the cost of flea treatment for the other cats and CP will cover their neutering (as they've already issued the vouchers for this). 

Richard thinks she'll be able to cope with the remaining cats once they're no longer producing kittens to add to the colony. 

Never-ending saga of a cat with a blocked bladder

This all started innocently, with a call from one of our local private vets asking for help for one of their clients. The cat had a completely blocked bladder, so needed urgent surgery to remove the stone which was causing the blockage. Without this, his bladder would almost certainly rupture and he would suffer a painful death. 

I agreed that we would cover the cost of emergency treatment to save the cat's life, but explained that we can only give help at private vets on a one-off basis and that the owner would need to register with our clinic and use that for future help. At that stage it turned out that this lady has several more cats, so I asked her to get them all registered so that they would be eligible for out of hours treatment in an emergency as well. 

The operation was successful and, a few days later, the vet called to notify me that a CP (Cat's Protection) volunteer had offered to drive the owner and all her cats to our clinic for registration. 

Yesterday evening the poor CP volunteer phoned to say that she'd collected the original cat from the vet, but the owner was now refusing to let us see the rest. This is never a good sign, and it turns out that CP had already been trying unsuccessfully to persuade her to have them spayed (at their expense). Agreed the CP volunteer should bring the sick cat in for a check-up in any case as he needs ongoing treatment for the bladder problem.

Unfortunately the Vet School decided that they legally couldn't see him without the owner's permission. Frantic examination of the rules on conduct of vets threw up the suggestion that, as vets are entitled to hold animals if the owner won't pay, it would be legally possible for the private vet to take him back for continuing care. This isn't a solution, but it's better than taking the risk that the owner will have him back and just ignore his condition until he's at death's door again.

At this stage, I'm afraid we've got no alternative to passing the problem to our local inspector, as the cats are clearly at risk and the sick one can't stay at the private vet indefinitely. I don't know how much of all this is due to the level of fear of the RSPCA which is encouraged by irresponsible reporting and campaigns by vested interests, but it certainly can't help matters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on cat from Girton

He's now been examined by the orthopaedic surgeon at the Vet School and he definitely needs surgical repair of his pelvis to make it stable so that he can stand and use his back legs properly. At the moment he still isn't urinating by himself, but they don't think his bladder is paralysed—just very difficult to empty under his own steam because of the soreness of his pelvic muscles. Both his hind legs respond to stimuli, so they're hopeful that there's no significant nerve damage. We won't know for certain until after the surgery, which they're hoping to do tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Urgent: special needs cat needing a home

URGENT post from Janine

I have heard of a young stray black male cat (around two years old) who was taken by his finder to a vets in Cambridge to be scanned for a microchip. He hasn't been chipped. But whilst at the vets he was blood tested and unfortunately found to be FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive.

He is not showing any symptoms and, despite having been very timid when he first turned up at finders, he is now a lovely friendly fellow. It seems a great shame for him to be put to sleep which, at the moment, is the only option if a home can't be found.

I've a lot of experience with FIV cats & have a run specially for two FIV cats. But, as it's full, I can't take him myself at the moment. If you know of anyone who may be able to take on this little fellow, I would be happy to give as much information as I can about FIV cats.

Basically what is needed is:

  •  to be kept away from FIV negative cats to prevent it being passed on. It is however only contagious to cats, not other species, and not easily transmitted: has to get into bloodstream - usually through biting another cat
  • this means either being kept as an indoor home (or with an outdoor run if available) and not mixing with cats unless they are also FIV positive.
  • FIV positive cats can go on for years with no symptoms. However, if or when the virus affects their immune system, any illness they get can then affect them very quickly and so they need a close eye on their health.

Please let me know if anyone can help.
Best Wishes

If anyone can help with this cat, please email

Monday, November 10, 2008

October figures

Just finished the spreadsheet of welfare activity figures for October:

Rehoming: six cats, three dogs

Low-cost veterinary treatments provided for 296 dogs, 210 cats, 11 rabbits and 10 miscellaneous small animals.

Fifteen dogs, nine cats, three rabbits and two ferrets neutered.

Eight dogs, six cats, one rabbit and one fancy rat put to sleep on veterinary advice that further treatment was futile and only likely to prolong suffering.

Falling Through the Cracks

The RSPCA and the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) have an agreement which governs the way we decide the financial criteria for allowing owners to attend RSPCA clinics and hospital. Basically this is designed to avoid creating a situation where charity clinics could undercut local private vets for routine operations and eventually drive them out of business. 

The agreement is that our clinics and hospitals only treat animals taken into RSPCA care for rehoming or owned by people on  state benefits (including pensions, working tax credit and students in full time education living away from home). Anyone who is not on state benefits is deemed to be capable of arranging treatment by a private vet — because they would normally be able to insure their animals or else pay using a credit card or bank overdraft if they do not have cash available. Diverting people who are on benefits to charity clinics is not likely to undercut private vets because these are people who probably would be unable to pay anyway.

Virtually all other welfare charities who run animal clinics operate similar criteria, although some have more restricted lists of benefits that they will accept as proof of low income. 

Most of the time this is clearly in the best interest of everyone, including the animals, because there is no way we could afford to run a complete "NHS for animals" providing veterinary care for all domestic pets — even if the RSPCA's entire resources were diverted to running clinics. If the private vets closed because we were taking away their clients through unfair competition everyone would be worse off. 

It can be very hard, though, if an owner's application for benefit is delayed through no fault of their own. This seems to be happening more frequently — usually because the owner has lost their job, or because a partner who was earning moves out. We can legitimately give a small amount of help via private vets as that doesn't contravene the agreement against unfair competition, but there are limits on what's possible. 

Our home-checkers are wonderful

I don't know which RSPCA animal home originally decided that Times journalist Alice Miles was not really suitable to adopt a dog, but they appear to have been spot on in their assessment. 

Incidentally, her experiences trying to house-train her puppy demonstrate exactly why we say that there are potential problems if people who work full-time adopt dogs.

Friday, November 7, 2008

If you think we have problems!

IFAW vet Dr Prasanta Boro rescues a really large kitty! Respect!

Another traffic accident cat

He's an entire male, all black and picked up on Huntingdon road, Girton by ACO Justin. Justin was concerned that he might have a ruptured diaphragm as he seemed to be struggling to breathe, but the emergency vets have x-rayed him and think he's probably got away with a pelvic fracture and shock. They're going to give him fluids and stabilise him over the weekend then X-Ray again on Monday to confirm whether he can go out to a foster home for cage rest or if he needs to be transferred to our clinic for surgery.

I've just added him to our database of incoming stray cats and clicked Google's analyse form button. The result is very interesting, although it's only a small sample. All of the injured male cats without exception are entires. The sex ratio is slightly skewed in favour of females (9 females to 6 males).

I'm not surprised that neutering would reduce male cats' risk of being found injured or ill, but I am surprised at such a dramatic effect.

I suppose it could be that neutered males are more likely to stay close to home, so if they're hit by a car their owners are more likely to find them and take them to a vet themselves. Possibly owners who neuter are also more inclined to chip, so they'd be contacted by the emergency vet and the cat wouldn't enter our system.

It will be interesting to see figures over a whole year and find if there's any difference outside the breeding season.

Further thought

I'm wondering whether some of cats recorded as female could in fact be neutered males. There is a bit of a tendency for people to call any cat of unknown sex "she" and, faced with an obviously injured animal, gender identification isn't uppermost in most finders' minds. We have occasionally taken in cats and only identified their sex further down the line when one of us thought to up-end them and look, so it is possible that some of those who don't survive or are rehomed by the vet didn't belong to the gender that was originally reported.

It does underline the importance of checking out reports of found cats that don't match the details of a lost cat in every respect.

Internet Resources

Archie the cat's website documents Archie's recovery after injury to one of his hind legs meant it had to be amputated and shows how well cats can adjust to life on three legs. We have several three-legged cats up for rehoming and Archie's story may give some prospective adopters confidence that it should be no detriment to their quality of life.

The Interactive Bunny is a fun learning tool to encourage people to research what rabbits need before acquiring one as a pet. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ghost: still looking

Unfortunately the home we thought we had found for Ghost didn't pan out, so he's still looking.

Request from Caroline

Caroline, who runs Rabbit Residence Rescue, has asked us to spread this message to parents who are thinking of buying a rabbit as a pet for their children:

"I have been running a rescue centre for unwanted pet rabbits for 14 years now. I started caring for 30 rabbits at any one time. In 2002 it was recorded that over 33,000 rabbits were abandoned each year in this country. This has sadly got worse and in 2005 The Rabbit Residence Rescue had to increase its space to care for 60 rabbits at any one time. Now in 2008 we have had to make space for 100 rabbits.

I am at my wit’s end with parents ringing me up asking me to take pet rabbits in because the children are no longer caring for them; the children have grown out of them or are bored of them. Rabbits can live for 10 years or more. They are not toys and if you are not interested in them as the parent DO NOT PURCHASE THEM. We are not here to pick up your pieces and should not be part of the equation when buying a rabbit."

Rabbits are now the third most popular pet (after cats and dogs), but they get a very raw deal because people do not properly appreciate their needs and how much work is needed to look after them correctly. Always remember that they are not "pocket pets" — a rabbit is as big as a cat or small dog and has similar needs in terms of exercise and mental stimulation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Please Remember: Fireworks Frighten Animals

Sad update on ginger kitten

Unfortunately he died this morning. The Vet School think he probably had internal injuries which were causing the fluid bloating in his abdomen and breathing difficulties.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Update on ginger kitten

He's now walking about quite happily, so the vets are now thinking that he's not got anything broken and his initial reluctance to stand was just due to bruising and soreness. Fortunately he's tested FIV/FeLV negative, but they do think he's got some wound infection — possibly he was injured some time before the original finder came across him. They're giving him metacam to reduce his temperature and fluids and antibiotics to help him recover from the infection. 

Fingers crossed.

Consultation on Cat, Dog and Equine codes

DEFRA has just issued a consultation on the proposed codes for the welfare of cats, dogs and equines. Once completed, these codes will operate in conjunction with the Animal Welfare Act to enforce the duties of animal owners towards their pets, so their contents are extremely important.

Draft Codes (all PDFs)

I've only had time to read through the cat code so far and most of it looks excellent, although it goes a bit overboard on the idea that cats are completely solitary animals: that's true to some extent, but it's also true that female cats will raise their kittens in communal nurseries for protection from predators.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another kitty

He's a 10-12 week old ginger kitten, and was picked up after being hit by a car. Finder didn't know the area, so couldn't give a good description of the location, but took quite a lot of trouble to get him to the 24 hour vet for emergency first aid. He's now fairly bright and interested in food, but they think he's probably got a cracked pelvis. They're hopeful that there isn't any spinal injury as he seems to have conscious control of urination.

Nicola is going to pick him up from Vet24 tomorrow morning and get him to the clinic for transfer to the Vet School Hospital. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Redemption: by Nathan Winograd

Redemption is a fascinating account of the campaign to end the killing of healthy pets in American animal shelters.
From similar beginnings, animal protection societies evolved very differently in the US and the UK. In this country the RSPCA, Scottish and Ulster SPCAs remained comparatively separate from local authority dog wardens (and local authorities on the whole confined their activities only to stray dogs). In the US, local SPCAs almost invariably became the major agencies of "animal control" (usually with some financial support from the local authority) and ended up operating open-access shelters with a remit to take in any pet animals whose owners no longer wanted them. Until pet spaying and neutering became routine and safe operations, this inevitably meant that SPCAs spent much of their time and energy killing precisely the animals they cared about.
Sadly, the advent of safe fertility control methods did not lead to the rapid decrease in killing that might have been expected and Winograd lays out a very persuasive argument explaining why this is so and what the animal protection movement needs to do to achieve the objective of no destruction of healthy animals. Perhaps the most important message of his book is that caring for animals is not enough: saving pets' lives is impossible if the would-be animal rescuers lack empathy for human beings and drive away the very people who would choose to adopt shelter animals. The majority of pet owners are decent and want to do the right thing.
The second important message is the need for transparency and accurate documentation of statistics to show what is actually happening in animal shelters. Without such statistics it is impossible to make rational decisions: one reason why the killing continues is the belief that there is a huge problem of "pet over-population" and there are far more animals than available homes. In fact, Winograd argues, this has never been true for adult animals. There was a problem of annual surplus production of young animals and this has already been significantly diminished by owners choosing to get their pets neutered. So long as people keep pets there will be some who get into difficulties and have to relinquish their animals, but this is balanced by people who want to acquire pets. The job of animal shelters is to match up the two - if necessary providing support in terms of advice on training etc. Provision of low-cost and/or free neutering services is vital, but it is not sensibly viewed as a way of reducing the overall pet population but as a control on that population's production of young animals.
It would be very interesting to have a proper comparison of the US vs UK situation (possible PhD subject for an aspiring student?). The US shelters Winograd discusses are all open-access - i.e. the shelter is required to take any animal presented to it. By comparison virtually all UK shelters are "limited access" (they can refuse animals if they are full) and even the local authority dog wardens are only required to take dogs who are actually stray and running loose; they do not normally take unwanted dogs direct from their owners. This means that even the local authority shelters are virtually "no-kill" by US standards and charity shelters normally treat rather than euthanase even quite seriously ill or injured animals. It may be that this is just displacing the decision to euthanase from the shelter to the owner: we simply do not know.
The no-kill equation
I. Feral Cat TNR (Trap Neuter Return) Program

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter

III. Rescue Groups

IV. Foster Care

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs

VI. Pet Retention

VII. Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement

IX. Volunteers

X. A Compassionate Director

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank-you, Dogsblog!

Since we registered with Dogsblog our rate of dog rehoming has dramatically improved - particularly for the older or more hard-to-place dogs. Ghost now has a home booked, after nearly a year in our care.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Internet Resource on Trusteeship

The Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO) has produced an online Trustee training site for anyone interested in becoming a charity trustee. The members of an RSPCA branch committee are all trustees of that branch, and most branches (including Cambridge) are always looking for new committee members. 

The SAVO site contains general-purpose information about the responsibilities of being a trustee and isn't specific to animal charites, but it is well worth working through.

If you might be interested in joining the committee of RSPCA Cambridge, please email 

RSPCA Peterborough branch is also in desperate need of new trustees. If you might be interested in helping them, please email their Branch Development Adviser.

More cats

Another un-neutered tom waiting to be transferred from Lida vets to the kennels.

A thin black and white female at Swayne's. She's tested FIV/FELV negative and they may have a possible home, which will be very welcome.

A young tortie/tabby female who was reclaimed by owner, but may involve us in a small bill for treatment up until the point where the owner contacted us.

Hissing Sid fortunately turns out to have normal thyroid hormone levels, and we hope he'll put on weight with regular meals and less exercise.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More cats

Sid is another entire male, very thin, but fortunately FIV/FeLV negative. We're awaiting results of a test for hyperthyroidism, but with any luck it may turn out that he's just underweight because he's been spending summer roaming in search of females instead of eating properly. Nicola*, our main volunteer driver, collected him from the Whittlesford vets and moved him to the kennels yesterday.

Sadly, another tom-cat handed in at the Arbury Road vets wasn't so lucky. He had awful abscesses and the blood test showed that he was FIV positive (which explains why they had got so bad, as FIV - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus - eventually destroys the cat's immune system and means that infections won't be thrown off as they normally would in a healthy cat). As the abscesses were so bad the vets advised that we should agree to having him put to sleep. 

*Congratulations to Nicola on her first ever motorway journey since passing her test!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Watch out for deer on the roads

The clocks have gone back and now many wild animals will be at their most active during the high-traffic period when people are driving home. The videos below from the deer collisions project illustrate the problem. We usually have a surge of domestic animal traffic casualties around this time of year as well - again probably because of the change in time of greatest traffic flow relative to dusk.