Friday, June 19, 2009

Lessons Learned

Firstly I should stress that the following are my own thoughts about the distressing case of Luna, reported to the RSPCA as an injured stray and subsequently put to sleep because there was no available holding accommodation for her. I am sure HQ will be holding their own review and seeing what changes should/can be made.

On policy:
  1. The current policy that we will not normally remove healthy adult stray cats from their current location needs to be re-affirmed.
  2. We need to clarify that cats who are reported to be sick or injured, but are found on capture to be perfectly well will be returned to their original location.
  3. The 7 day holding period for sick or injured stray animals who are not homeable, but don't need immediate euthanasia on welfare grounds needs to be added to the branch Minimum Animal Welfare Standards and made mandatory.
On practical issues:
  1. We need to recruit more foster carers as a cost-effective way of increasing holding spaces for animals.
  2. We need to plan what can be done in a situation where no kennel or foster space is available or the animal is not suitable to go to a foster home. This will cost money. Usually the only solution at weekends would be to transfer the animal to the veterinary surgery which is providing 24 hour cover for the district. Reasonably enough they will charge a substantial amount if an animal has to take up an expensive emergency care place.
  1. Microchip identification is not perfect, but the more we can encourage, the better the chance that a cat picked up as an injured stray will be reunited speedily with her owners. It's particularly important to chip cats who have some disability or condition which makes them likely to be reported as sick or injured (for example a permanently stiff leg following an injury).
  2. Educate the public that a cat in good body condition, with no obvious injuries or illness, who is "hanging around" is normally perfectly capable of returning home without help.
  3. Educate vets that we're not simply "putting off the decision" if we ask for an obviously terminally ill stray to be held the full 7 days so long as it can be kept pain-free.
  4. Educate branch members and volunteers that when they signed up to the RSPCA they effectively signed up to an open-ended responsibility for animals collected by ACOs.
The most practically problematic of these is likely to be number 2 of the first group. Legally we probably can't insist that a cat removed from a particular garden is returned there if the owner of the garden refuses permission. Returning as close as possible to the original site is probably the best that can be guaranteed, so once an animal has been collected it's probably safer held until claimed by an owner if it can't be returned to the exact site.

Number 4 of the last group is a real consideration. The RSPCA is an extremely complex organisation dealing with issues that would take several inch-thick manuals to describe properly. Normal people don't, won't and can't assimilate anything like this before they join up as helpers and this does mean that quite a lot of the time they're being asked to do something and really don't know why — or at least not why it's their responsibility when they're already doing as much as they're comfortable with and they're genuinely short of funds.

The money aspect is a genuine consideration. Money spent keeping an unhomeable cat for 7 days is money that's not available to help with another animal's veterinary treatment.

Further thought
I think we should ban the phrase, "he'll find his way home" when we're talking to the public about cats they want to report as strays, because it implies that the cat is lost and has to search for home. I don't have to find my way home from the shops — I know the route, and so does the average cat who's visiting a garden a few doors down.

No comments:

Post a Comment