Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stray cats II

RSPCA HQ have now put up a statement about the Mirror article, and the story behind what happened seems to be much as I suspected. Evidently the cat was originally reported as a sick animal whose owner wasn't known. I've been on the receiving end of calls like this, and there can be an awful lot of pressure to remove an animal, and insistence that it is in terrible pain. Once you've caught the cat, if the owner of the land where it was found is adamant that it mustn't be put back you are in a bind.

99 times out of 100 there's no problem and the cat is placed in kennels or a foster home and either rehomed or claimed by the owner. If the cat is unhomeable, most of the time it's at least possible to hold him/her for a reasonable length of time to give the owner a chance to come forward.

Until comparatively recently vets would normally be asked to hold the cat for at least 7 days if no kennel space was available. Now, most veterinary surgeries outsource their out of hours emergency cover to specialist 24hr centres and all their own staff go home overnight and at weekends. Some of them will stretch a point and get a nurse to come in briefly to feed and water weekend boarders, but most are unhappy about leaving animals unattended. That means they can't be used as a form of emergency space for holding animals. Kennels all have limits on their numbers set out as part of their licence conditions, so they can't "just squeeze in one more".

That leaves foster homes — and most of us would do our best to fit in one more cat in an emergency.

Do that too often, and you become part of the problem, not part of the solution. There's a numbers limit beyond which animals can't be kept in reasonably sanitary conditions, with parasites treated and veterinary appointments kept.

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