Friday, August 8, 2008

State of play

On the plus side, the kitty with the extreme hair-cut, little Tommy, the yorkie, Hendrik, the Shi Tzu cross, and Bob, with the dislocated hip, all have homes booked. 

On the downside, there's another cat waiting for collection from Arbury road vets (with a drain for his nasty abscess that will go on leaking pus for several days - oh joy!). 

Plus one angry hamster, product of an unexpected litter. This is more common than you'd think, considering that Syrian hamsters are solitary and should be kept in individual cages. The child who owned the original hamster appears to have given the babies out like sweets to her class-mates, some of whose parents weren't happy to be landed with the chore of cage-cleaning. 

Parvovirus again

Another phone call last night: 9 week old puppy, vomiting, lethargic. Owner never been to a vet, and, presumably, puppy never vaccinated by the breeder. Owner has no money and didn't realise that charges escalate after 6.30 pm when normal surgery hours end and all the local vets go over to emergency rates. It's worth stressing this - in normal surgery hours £50 will cover a private vet's consultation fee and some first aid treatment. After 6.30, you're talking about £75 just for the consultation fee.

Being vaccinated at 8 weeks old via our clinic might not have protected that puppy altogether, as she would only have had her first jab and there wouldn't have been enough time for much immunity to develop. BUT it would have meant she was registered and therefore eligible to be seen by the out of hours emergency service for a £30 charge.

Yet another this morning, via the Haverhill vet. Sadly, put to sleep on the vet's advice.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More on the "can't cope" theme

Ben's owner was evicted and had to give him up as a result. He's thirteen years old, but still playful and affectionate and really deserves a good home.

If you think you might be able to give Ben a home for whatever time he has left, please email:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Collar wound

The stitches are difficult to see in the photo because they're black thread against a strip of black fur (pinkish part is where poor Emily was shaved so they could establish the extent of the lacerated area). Basically the collar sliced into her skin along a line from her shoulder to breastbone, going just behind her right foreleg. The Elizabethan collar is to stop her licking her stitches.

I'll put up more photos when she's got the Elizabethan collar off and some of the fur's grown back in case anyone recognises her.

Doing our bit for carbon neutrality

This is Emily, the little black cat from Burwell with the awful collar wound.

Now well enough to go out into foster care and looking a little apprehensive about our transport facilities.

I don't try this with animals with fractures or anything that will be made worse by jolting, but otherwise, most cats and rabbits prefer cycling to being enclosed in a noisy, frightening car. Cambridge is very "cycle-orientated" and there are often short-cuts which mean it's actually quicker by bike. One of my own cats loves travelling by cycle (even to the vet!) and practically sits there waving to her admirers like royalty.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Just to reiterate the warning on our main website:

Any dog whose vaccinations are not current could be at risk of contracting canine distemper or canine parvovirus. The disease is particularly dangerous to younger dogs who have never been vaccinated and is very often fatal. If your dog or puppy is not vaccinated please consult your vet - IT IS NOT WORTH risking a £500 vet bill and a dead dog at the end of it for the sake of saving the comparatively small cost of vaccination. If you are on benefits or state pension and really cannot afford the full cost, you may be eligible to have the vaccination given at our clinic at a lower rate than a private vet would need to charge.

If your dog is not vaccinated and starts vomiting or has diarrhoea DO NOT let them mix with other dogs and phone your vet for advice. If you have more than one dog, keep the sick one away from the ones who are still healthy. Contact your vet by phone for advice before getting the healthy dogs vaccinated - they may be carrying the disease and it is important that they are not brought into contact with other dogs.

Many people assume that being vaccinated as a puppy means their dog has life-long protection. This is not the case, although your vet may advise some variation from a schedule of yearly vaccinations for elderly dogs or dogs with certain health problems. In case of doubt always consult your own vet for advice which is personalised for your particular dog's state of health.

Users of the Cambridge RSPCA animal clinic must bring proof of benefits or paperwork such as a bank-statement which shows that they have a very low income each time they visit the clinic. If you are unable to bring your pet yourself it's fine for a helper to bring them for you, but the helper must show proof that you are in receipt of benefit and needs to have a signed note from you confirming that they are bringing the animal on your behalf.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Yet another dog with vomiting and diarrhoea; the third in two days. It's almost certainly an outbreak of parvo-virus, just to make our lives complete.


Nice to be reminded sometimes that not every staffy owner is an irresponsible "chav". Worried phone call last night from a young owner whose 9 week old puppy had escaped from behind her dog guard and managed to nick a large-ish block of chocolate from a kitchen table she'd not realised the pup had grown enough to reach.

Apart from the initial accident of the pup's escape (which might happen to anyone), the owner had done everything right. The pup had had her first vaccination at our clinic as soon as she was old enough, so was not only protected against nasty diseases, but registered and so eligible for the out of hours service. The owner was knowledgeable enough to be aware that chocolate is poisonous to dogs and that she needed to get help at once. She had the pup's registration card and our emergency number to hand where she could find them instantly.

It really restores your faith in human nature.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Animal Hoarders and others

This is Bearface, who came in from the same original place as Alphina. If you might be interested in adopting them (or any of our other animals), please email
Which leads into the subject of today's post, sparked off by an article on the Disability Now website. Bearface, Alphina and their eight other friends were brought in by our inspector after being signed over to the RSPCA because their previous owner couldn't cope with so many cats any longer. They were all evidently loved and cared for and there was absolutely no question of anyone being prosecuted.
The vast majority of the animals, other than injured strays, that we take in for rehoming fall into variations on the "can no longer cope" category, for a variety of legitimate reasons. Sometimes because people's circumstances have changed; often because a landlord has finally taken exception to the large number of animals being kept, and fairly frequently because the owner has mental or physical problems severe enough to cause them to be placed in some kind of institution for reasons that are not necessarily related to the fact that they have pets.
The most horrific example of this last category that's ever happened in our own area is one where a very elderly couple owned a number of dogs. The husband was suffering from severe dementia and his wife sadly had a heart attack and died with the result that he lived with his wife's remains for several weeks, unable to comprehend the situation enough to call the emergency services or feed the dogs. That clearly wasn't his fault, and the only reason our poor inspector was called in by the police was because they needed someone to deal with the surviving dogs.
When someone is suddenly taken into hospital or prison it is the responsibility of the emergency services to protect their possessions and, in the case of inanimate objects, this is simple to do by making their home secure. It clearly isn't an option to do this with living animals, which is why the police and social services will generally try to get the RSPCA to take them if it seems likely that the owner isn't going to return within a reasonable timespan. It's fairly clear from some of the Internet discussions about the RSPCA that this is sometimes interpreted as us "seizing" the animals, although from our perspective we've done nothing except respond to a request to care for animals who have been (involuntarily) abandoned by their owner.
Which leads on to the comparatively rare situations where animals are seized and their owners prosecuted. First of all, it should be said firmly that the RSPCA doesn't (and is not allowed to) simply take animals away without authorisation from the police and a veterinary surgeon's opinion. Once the animals have been removed they remain the property of the original owner until the owner signs them over to the RSPCA voluntarily or until a court makes an order about their future. This is as is should be - as a voluntary body we ought not to be in a position of being judge, jury and executioner.
The problem in the case of people who have a mental abnormality of some kind and are not willing to give up animals voluntarily is that it means there is no middle way to avoid putting them through the whole process of prosecution, including the inevitable publicity, without simply abandoning the animals to their fate. Rosalind Gregson is an absolutely classic example of someone who had to be stopped from collecting more and more animals and keeping them in abysmal conditions, but who wasn't fully responsible for her actions. Prison clearly wasn't an appropriate punishment for her, but sentencing is the decision of the court, not the RSPCA. Margaret O'Leary is a similar case.
In the States animal hoarding is beginning to be recognised as a specific form of mental illness and convicted people may be given treatment orders rather than punishment. This is clearly better, but I can't see any realistic alternative to the prosecution process unless society decides to go down the road of authorising confiscation of animals and enforced treatment of their owners without a legal oversight (or with something like a judge in chambers instead of open court). Have to say I find the idea a bit chilling - what happens to the "mad cat ladies" of this world who are eccentric but do look after their animals and keep numbers within fairly reasonable limits.