Friday, February 6, 2009

Home-visitors' training day: change of date

The home-visitors' training day has been rescheduled to Sunday 1st March from 10.30 to 3.30 at Cherry Hinton Village Hall (not the same place as Cherry Hinton Hall).

There are still vacant places. If you would like to attend, please email

Update on Santa


The wound flap has closed up except for a very small area at the lowest point (where all the pus and gunk was draining). He still needs to have it monitored and dressings changed daily, but a student has offered to take him home for a trial period. Hopefully by the end of next week he may be ready to go to his permanent adoptive home. As some of the healing is by "granulation," which is the formation of scar tissue, he may be left with some permanent lack of flexibility, but they're now confident that he'll live.

This just serves to demonstrate what terrible damage a rigid, unbreakable collar can do to a cat. This was a flea collar, and it probably didn't have any beneficial effect in killing fleas, but it very nearly killed poor Santa. As it didn't carry any identity tag it didn't even serve any useful function in linking him to his previous owner.

Another staffy, I presume

Part of yesterday's frenzy was the stream of phone calls, which I'm afraid may have been another reason why the students' "user experience" was less than optimal. Three of them illustrate something of a deeper truth about the assumptions we make about dogs.

Number one: Richard, one of the inspectors, called to say he'd been asked to take in a young dog, with a teenaged owner. Dog not well, and needing veterinary treatment, but in the circumstances not the owner's fault as she'd got no home, no money and no transport. I agreed we'd pay for treatment and boarding. As a bit of an afterthought, I asked what breed the dog was:"A Staffy, I suppose?" Richard said: "Yes, she was," and we both muttered a bit about how hard they are to rehome and not wanting to put down such a young animal without at least giving her a chance. 

Number two: Clinic client phoned: her cocker spaniel had badly bitten several family members, including a small child, without any provocation or warning. This was the second time he'd bitten and she was now waiting for the police and ambulance and would need to have the dog put to sleep as an emergency. I agreed with the vet that there really wasn't any choice and organised an appointment for her.

And, number three: Call from Richard to say the Staffy pup was doing fine, except for an upset tum, and one of the vet nurses had fallen in love with him and wanted to adopt him. Sometimes there are happy endings.

Staffys are not bad dogs (nor are cockers: rage sydrome, which may have been what affected this dog is very rare). They do need sensible care and training and many of them will fight other dogs, but so will Jack Russells. The main reason why we have a "Staffy problem" is that they happen to have become the pet of choice for owners who have lots of difficulties of their own, which means they find it harder to afford veterinary treatment costs and are more likely to have domestic emergencies that mean they have to rehome their dogs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Busy day

Fortuitously, I'd already booked to take a day's leave so I could do the RSPCA stand at the University Careers Service "working for a charity" event, so I was available when Marion phoned this morning to say her road was completely iced up and she couldn't get her car out to cover reception at the clinic this morning.

After hiking across the white hell that is Coldham's common* I got my chance to practice my rusty skills on the client records system—fortunately to a fairly scanty waiting room, as I rapidly discovered that it has evolved quite a lot since I originally did the training course on the basis that it would be handy to have someone who lives close who could cover in an emergency. Even more fortunately, Tina who also lives just down the road, did get in so there were two of us to kick the printer every time it jammed again.

Finished just after twelve, then another hike into town to set up the info. stand, which may have meant some students who planned to see it in their lunch hour were disappointed. However it was really well attended with lots of interest in volunteering as well as possible job opportunities.

*Anyone viewing from Canada can be considered to have laughed enough by now. In our defence, the problem with British snow is that there's not enough of it and it's not cold enough. Most of the time cars are driving on a very thin layer of ice with a nice surface lubrication of wet slush, so tyre chains probably wouldn't help much.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Update on Nicholas

As you can see from the photos, his confidence has come on by leaps and bounds. He's still slightly nervous of my own cats (can be beaten up by little Fern who must weigh about a quarter of what he does), but he's stopped hiding.

Once the weather improves I'm thinking of moving him down to the cattery to see how he behaves there as its much easier to rehome from somewhere where people can have a choice of cats to view.

Technical Large Animal Rescue

Reading Technical Large Animal Rescue or its companion website won't qualify you to rescue animals, but it may terrify you enough to protect you (and the animals!) from "fools rush in" syndrome. 

TLAER is really intended as a textbook to accompany practical instruction in rescue techniques (and it can't be stressed enough that most of the techniques fall into the "don't try this at home" category and are not things that can be learned from a book without the practical aspect). 

It would also be useful as a casebook of examples of things ordinary owners can do to prevent their animals getting into trouble and needing to be rescued and possibly as a source of suggestions of practical things that voluntary groups might do to improve rescue facilities locally. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SSPCA press release

Having had phone conversations where I never did manage to make the person on the other end believe our clinic isn't run by the PDSA, the Scots have my sympathy, even if I do think they might have phased it all a bit more tactfully.

The USPCA are even more unlucky with the potential for confusion with the other Irish SPCA's in the Republic.

This earlier article gives some background on why the three societies need to be separate legal entities.

Legacies are always going to be a contentious issue, as there's no way to go back in time and ask the testator why a particular charity was selected. Individual RSPCA branches are separate charities in their own right and there's almost equal scope for ill-feeling about whether legacies should go to a particular branch, or to into the national "pot".

Briefly: If you live in Scotland, then your local SPCA is the Scottish SPCA. In Northern Ireland, it's the USPCA. In England and Wales, you have a choice between the National Society (your legacy will be used to fund activities such as the Inspectorate which are managed centrally), or your local branch (your legacy will be used to fund animal welfare work within the branch area).

If you would like to make a legacy to RSPCA Cambridge (see map for our area of activity), the way to avoid any possibility of confusion is to ask your solicitor to specify our full name "RSPCA Cambridge and District Branch" and charity number (205098). 

And finally...
A spokesman for the RSPCA denied that the charity had run Scotland-specific fundraising campaigns. He said: "Some digital channels don't allow adverts not to be shown in some areas, but we refer all Scottish donors to the Scottish SPCA. It is more trouble than it is worth for us to aggravate people."
I do actually believe him, even if no-one else does...

Monday, February 2, 2009

More comparisons

Compared with the London Ambulance Service fiasco, the NCC really doesn't look too bad. Note that the annual budget for the LAS is about £200 million — roughly double the RSPCA's annual income. They get approximately the same number of calls as the NCC over the course of a year.

Cambridge in the snow

Pretty, but not really quite sufficient to justify the shock and awe.


Some figures from the Home Office performance report on Cambridgeshire police make an interesting comparison:
* Police Officers: 1,379
* Police Staff: 892
* Community Support Officers: 197
* Other Staff: 25
* Special Constables: 210

Budget 2007/08: £116.0 million
Cambridgeshire alone has an annual income that roughly matches the resources the RSPCA has to fund all its national services (Inspectorate, animal homes, campaigns, scientific etc.). Next time you hear that someone phoned the RSPCA and "no-one was available to come out that day," please remember those figures. It isn't that "no-one cares".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Home-visitors' training day

We'll be holding a training day for volunteers interested in becoming branch home-visitors on 22nd February, at the Block Fen animal centre.

Home visitors are a crucial element in responsible animal rehoming, as they make it possible to reduce the number of unsuccessful placements which break down and lead to animals being returned. We're not trying to catch prospective adopters out, but by visiting them in their homes before an animal goes out we can ensure as far as possible that they understand what they're taking on and don't have misconceptions about what can be expected from the animal they've selected.

If you might be interested in attending, please email There are plenty of places available and the role playing part of the course works best with fairly large groups, so don't worry if you think you might be interested but aren't certain whether it's right for you.