Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another vomiting puppy

Yet another owner with no money and a 10 month old rottweiler puppy, "rescued" from someone else, and never vaccinated. Puppy has had vomiting and diarrhoea for three days, and the diarrhoea now has lots of blood in it.

I've agreed that we'll cover the cost of an initial consultation, but it doesn't look good.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Holiday planning

Amazon will pay us a small commission on all book purchases which start from this web page.


I hope this morning's call from someone who is due to be evicted from her home and needs to find somewhere for her animals is not the first sign of an avalanche. We've already noticed that the rate of rehoming seems to be slowing as people think twice before taking on new commitments. If this is accompanied by significantly increased numbers of emergency requests to take in animals, then we are looking at real trouble.

We always need more volunteers willing to foster animals (mostly cats, but some dogs and smaller animals too). If you might be interested, please email

We will reimburse costs for pet food, litter etc. to fosterers. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rabbit Residence featured in Cambridge Evening News

Cambridge Evening News's video section has a piece on Rabbit Residence. Good write-up and very cute video of groups of bunnies hopping about in the snow.
If you might be interested in adopting a pair of rabbits from Caroline, please email her at

Progress report on new charity shop

Not an awful lot, I'm afraid. We are trying to purchase the remainder (5 years to run) of the lease of a shop on Burleigh street. This is turning out to be more complicated than we had thought, because this is an underlease (from Coral, the bookmakers), who in turn lease the shop from the Prudential Insurance, the freeholders. Because so many entities are involved, all of them need to agree before a final lease agreement can be signed—and we need to be satisfied that we aren't risking branch funds by making ourselves liable for unexpected costs.

Renting commercial property is rather different from renting a house or flat to live in because the landlord isn't normally the one who pays for any repairs—these are either done and paid for by the tenant directly or else the landlord does the repairs and charges the tenant. It's also different from buying a house leasehold, because a shop lease is basically just an agreement to pay rent for a certain number of years—the only "resale" value it has is the worth of any fittings put in by the previous tenant. So we have to take advice from a local surveyor about the value of the fittings and the probable cost of repairs during the term of the lease, and what we will need to spend at the end of the lease in order to return the unit to the condition it was in when Coral originally took it out. 

We also have to get confirmation from the ultimate landlord (the Pru) of the rent they will be charging. This is what we're waiting for at the moment, as we daren't take on the shop without knowing for certain what the rent is going to be over the next five years. 

We do know the current rent (we are not completely daft), but the sticking point is that this rent was due for review in February 2008. At that point shop rentable values were still fairly high in Cambridge, and it would be legitimate for the landlord to set the rent at an amount which would have been fair a year ago (i.e. more than the current value, and more than we could afford to pay in the current conditions). 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another cat

Not very full details yet as Vet24 phoned immediately after the finders had brought the kitty to them. The cat is all (or almost all) white and about four or five years old. No collar or chip, and I don't think they'd definitely confirmed the sex, although they spoke about "him" which suggests they think this is a neutered male. He's apparently fairly bright, but has a probable pelvic fracture, so "the other Rosemary" is going to pick him up from them early tomorrow morning on her way in to do reception at the clinic.

Horses and ponies

A few RSPCA branches have facilities for caring for horses and other large domestic animals or have arrangements to board them in private livery stables, but in general the National Society takes responsibility for finding suitable accommodation for equines if they are taken in as a result of rescues or cruelty investigations. 

In the case of very large incidents, like the one at Amersham, other equine rescue organisations will usually chip in so that animals can be distributed among centres which have available space and suitable facilities. 

Rescues and cruelty investigations are always done by the Inspectorate in conjunction with vets and often with technical advice and help from experts such as the World Horse Welfare field officers. This means that it is important to contact the National Control Centre, rather than our branch, if you see horses which are neglected, injured or in danger, as this avoids delay.

The contact number for the Control Centre is 0300 1234 999. You may report incidents anonymously if necessary, but it is very important to give an accurate location for the animals, and preferably a contact phone number so that an inspector can call you back to get further details if needed. 

Be aware that if a case goes to prosecution it may be as long as a year before it comes before the courts—so the animals may be removed from a site, but you may not see any reports in the local media until very much later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Held together with 'laccy bands and bits of string

Many of the people who come into contact with us for one reason or another get very frustrated because they feel we're not delivering the standard of service they expect. Conversely, many of the people we pay to provide some of those services aren't at all happy about the degree of pressure they're working under and the way the public often expect them field complaints about aspects of the RSPCA that aren't anything to do with them.

Clinic this morning was a case in point. One of our clients had bred some puppies from his bitch and one of them had diarrhoea. As the puppy was only three weeks old he was a bit reluctant to bring it to the surgery and he'd got it into his head that we ought to be able to diagnose and prescribe on the basis of a stool sample. He phoned in; argued with the volunteer receptionist about this and she took his number so that one of the vets could call him back. They were horrendously busy that morning and didn't get finished seeing patients until mid-day, at which point they still had several animals needing to be admitted to the hospital as in-patients and a string of other telephone call-backs to make.

By this time, Mr X. was pretty peeved that he'd not been called back yet, and decided to phone me on the out of hours number. All I could do was reiterate that the puppy really needed to be seen (otherwise there's no way to tell whether it's getting dehydrated) and that I would leave a message asking the vets if it was possible to call him a.s.a.p. Strictly speaking at this point I was asking them to bend the rules as the puppy a) could have been taken to the morning session and b) wasn't registered with the clinic (although its mum is) so isn't covered by our agreement with the Vet School to see registered patients outside normal hours in an emergency. Twenty minutes later he still hadn't got to the top of the urgent call-backs and phoned me ranting and raving that we didn't care about animals and why should he have to wait when his puppy was ill.

I am afraid that the answer is that you get what you pay for. Our annual turnover is around £200,000, which is a frighteningly large amount for a group of volunteers to raise. It relates to an annual demand for help for around 3,000-4,000 individual animals—less than £100 per animal. That means we have to do things on the cheap wherever possible. Our value to the University for student teaching means they charge us a lot less than a commercial rate for veterinary services, but it does mean consultations take longer (because the qualified vet needs to discuss the animals' conditions with the students). If we could pay the University enough for them to employ an extra vet at each session that would decrease waiting times, but that would mean raising at least another £40,000 every year. Similar considerations explain why our telephone availability is less than perfect (we're mostly volunteers taking calls in our spare time, not paid reception staff).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Experimental new pages for our rehoming

As an experiment, I've set up a second blog to display photos of the animals we have up for rehoming. I think this layout is easier to view than the current photo gallery, and Blogger's tagging system makes it easy to search for animals with particular characteristics, such as being used to living with cats.

Note that we don't always get photos of animals immediately they come in, because it depends on Janine travelling down to the kennels to take pictures, so if you don't see what you're looking for it's always worth emailing to ask.