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.

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