Friday, October 17, 2008

Horses of the Storm and Pawprints of Katrina

Horses of the Storm and Pawprints of Katrina are more accounts of the animal rescue operations which followed the Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana.

Horses is mainly focussed on the efforts of the staff, students and volunteers of Louisiana State University's equine veterinary department and concentrates on the particular problems of rescuing horses and mules (although the LSU workers also saved a variety of other livestock and smaller domestic animals). Probably due to Ky Mortensen's professional position as a staff member of the University, Horses is less emotional than either Rescued or Pawprints and may therefore be more in tune with British tastes.
Pawprints concentrates on the work of Best Friends Animal Society and the emergency animal refuge which it set up to receive pets rescued from the flooded areas of New Orleans (the author, Cathy Scott, has a blog on Pawprints is more of a collection of heart-warming stories, than a detailed analysis, like Rescued, and if you're looking for "lessons learned", then Rescued is probably the better buy.
One common theme in all three books is the absolutely vital importance of micro-chipping as a method of permanent animal identification which cannot be lost and poses no risk. The second major lesson is preparedness: animals whose owners were organised to leave the danger area with them had the best chance of survival, but even the small amount of time needed to release horses from tethers and stalls was enough to give them a better chance of reaching safety by swimming. Horses has a fairly detailed appendix on emergency preparedness for horse-keepers, much of which would also be applicable to the UK.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What a complicated fortnight

Eight week old kitten (uninjured, but too small for our normal "if it's uninjured and healthy, leave it alone" rule) taken into Vet24 over the weekend. In the meantime, Fountain, one of the two kittens being fostered with a view to adoption, developed a runny nose and we organised transport so he could go to a vet on Monday. By then he was fine, but of course the transport volunteer couldn't alter all her other arrangements to collect the Vet24 kitten. 

Re-arranged transport to get her to the kennels today — by which time the vets had managed to find someone who wanted to adopt her anyway. Excellent news, apart from messing the poor transport person about again, as we really don't like holding young animals in kennels because of the effect on their socialisation. 

Madison and Emily should be moved to the kennels next Monday (unless something else happens) as they're now fighting fit and ready to be shown to adopters. Lomas is booked in for his X-ray at the Vet School the same day and we are all praying that he'll be able to have his fixator removed so that we don't have any more panics.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freedom Food Eggs

This article in the FarmingUK online magazine about changes to the Lion code for the "free range" label is both interesting and depressing — and demonstrates the part Freedom Food plays in keeping the developing welfare-audited food market honest. 
"Freedom Food, however, says it is waiting to see evidence that there will be no detrimental effect on animal welfare. If that cannot be produced, it will continue with its stocking density limit of 1,000 birds per hectare."
"Leigh Grant, chief executive of Freedom Food, said the RSPCA was waiting to see the evidence that there would be no effect on animal welfare.

"The RSPCA has had very positive dialogue with the industry and it is asking the industry to provide evidence that this would not prove detrimental to animal welfare," he said. "The industry has agreed to run trials and the RSPCA is awaiting the result.

"My own personal position is that if the industry, working with the RSPCA, is able to arrive at a point where it can show that the change is not detrimental then I would be happy. However, I would not want the RSPCA to be influenced by commercial considerations."

He said that when a product carried the Freedom Food logo that product carried an RSPCA endorsement, so it was inevitable that the RSPCA should be very sensitive about welfare considerations. The RSPCA had worked very hard with the industry over the years to help put free range where it was today and he hoped that co-operation would continue. He pointed out that a huge number of retailers - the majority of them - were with Freedom Food. If the industry was not able to provide evidence that a change in stocking density would not affect animal welfare then the Freedom Food standard would not be changed. Then there would have to be two separate standards and the retailers and their customers would have to make a choice."
So, we could potentially be seeing a situation where "Free Range" labelled eggs could be from hens stocked at twice the density of hens producing eggs under the "Freedom Food" label. (In fact, my reading of the article is that this may already be the case, but the higher-density wouldn't be eligible for the "Lion" quality label.

I can see that there must be pressure to maximise production of food per acre of land. Arguably the ultimate way to do this would be to grow plants for direct human consumption, but people are likely to want to consume eggs for the foreseeable future. Maybe the answer is a return to the older system of poultry flocks in orchards (scroll down to see Chivers' then cutting-edge pedigree flock, just down the road from Cambridge). 

In fact Chivers must have been an absolutely wonderful example of integrated farming for maximum productivity per acre as they seem to have had bees as well as poultry so that their orchards were producing honey, eggs and fruit from a single piece of land. So far as it's possible to tell from the photos, their hens had at least as much space as the best modern free-range farms, and probably better welfare since chickens are naturally woodland birds.

Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

The Cambridge Clinic

The RSPCA is not simply "the animal police". With 34 clinics and 172 branches which offer financial help for owners on low incomes, we are at least as much about helping owners to keep their animals and care for them properly as we are about preventing bad or incompetent owners from having animals.

The Cambridge RSPCA clinic at 1 Pool Way, Whitehill Road, Cambridge is open for general treatments on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and on Wednesdays for vaccinations, pre-neutering checks and stitch removals. We start booking people in at roughly 8.30 a.m. and don't accept any further bookings for the morning at 10.30 a.m. The vets begin examining animals just after 9 am.

Treatments are not free, but cost roughly a third of what a private vet would have to charge, and we accept anyone on means tested state benefits or very low income (defined as less than £200 per week household income). Proof of income status must be shown at each visit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

German Shepherd case

By coincidence, I had a call from Maddison's adopter to update us on her progress on the day the court case against her previous owners was finalised, and Storm, the remaining one of the four dogs was signed over to us for rehoming.

He's supposed to be her litter brother, but we wonder if he's actually older, as he's still in much poorer condition than she is. He's very friendly, but still quite a bit thinner than he ought to be. If you might be interested in adopting him, please email

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cash flow for September

Our income for September was £18,868, and expenditure £15,680, so there was a net surplus of £3,998 for the month. However, this was skewed by receipt of the £9,289 payment for reclaimed input VAT relating to the annual payment to the University Vet School for clinical services during 2007 which we made in April. 

Another poor month for the shops — overall profits are almost halved compared with 2007.

When combined with the figures for the number of animals handled by us in the same month, you'll see how the cash flow figures demonstrate that the amount of money available per animal is quite low. We would have no more than £50 available for each animal even if we had no overheads (shop rents etc.) at all.

A brief explanation of how VAT works in relation to charity activities is probably in order. We have to pay output VAT to the Inland Revenue on services (such as our animal clinic) for which we make a charge and which are not VAT exempt. We can reclaim the VAT which is included in charges we pay to our suppliers (such as the University Vet School) to enable us to provide those services. 

A normal business would charge its customers more than it pays its suppliers (or go bust) so, because VAT is calculated as a percentage of VATable charges, its reclaimed VAT would always be less than the VAT owed (so it would have to make a net payment to Inland Revenue every quarter).

We subsidise our clinic services, so we charge clinic users less than it costs us to run the clinic, and this means that the VAT we owe is less than the VAT which is included in the charge made by our suppliers. This means the Inland Revenue owe us money at the end of a quarter (effectively we have overpaid them) and we get a refund four times a year.

At present this is very welcome.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not so cool for cats

Cats Protection have put out a statement about their investments in Iceland:
"In August 2005, the charity identified that Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander, a UK bank, was a bank where it could invest with confidence as it had a high credit rating. Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander is owned by an Icelandic bank, Kaupthing. Consequently, some of Cats Protection’s cash reserves were placed with them on a 90 day arrangement. Our deposits amounted to £11.2 million.

The credit ratings of the various banks the charity uses are checked periodically and quite recently, Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander’s rating remained sound.

“In the light of the demise of some major banking institutions, Cats Protection decided that it should diversify even further and on 17 September 2008, the charity gave 90 days notice to KSF of its intention to withdraw these deposits.

“On Wednesday afternoon, 8 October, Cats Protection received news that the bank had been put into administration. Some of the deposits held within the Kaupthing bank group have been rescued under a deal set up by the UK treasury. However, at present the future of other deposits, CP’s included, is uncertain. Many local authorities and councils find themselves in similar positions and we and they are exerting pressure on the Treasury to act."
Very worrying.

Some people seem to be taking the view that CP shouldn't have had reserves of that size in any case, and it's worth pointing out that (like us) they handle thousands of cats every year — and also help low income cat owners with vouchers for pet neutering and grants towards emergency vet bills. It's a lot of money, but spread over that number of cases, it doesn't represent a huge amount per individual cat. Setting up a new shelter doesn't leave much change out of several million pounds when you consider that a suitable site could cost at least half a million and would require at least as much again to kit it out with suitable buildings. Even paying just the minimum wage staff costs would be at least £80,000 p.a. to have a rotation to cover holidays and time off and still have someone on the premises 24/7.


To the staff and customers of Borders Books for raising £28.44 towards our local animal welfare work from their collecting boxes at the Market St. branch. This would enable us to provide four low-cost pet treatments at our animal clinic.