Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Donate, Don't Dump

Would anyone out there be interested in organising a "D-Day" event at their place of work? The basic idea is fairly simple:
On a designated day, a business will host a donations drive. Staff will be encouraged to bring in to work one good quality item they no longer want or need, which will be given to a waiting charity representative. These goods can then be sold through charity shops to raise money for charities. In the current economic climate, some shops have found they are running out of stock as people are more likely to buy than to give; this is an easy and fun way of getting more donations into stores, where they can be sold for maximum profit.

Why should people only bring in one thing?
There are three reasons why this is a good idea:
  • It is easier for someone to carry only one piece of clothing, record or book into work than to carry a bag full. This means people are more likely to do it.
  • People can choose the one best thing to give away. Donations are often of better quality if they are picked out in this way.
  • A lot of people bringing in one good quality item means a lot of donations. Of course, people can bring in more donations if they want to!
The Association of Charity Shops website has lots more information about organising a Donation Day at work.

In fact, textile items which aren't quite good enough to sell in the shops can still make quite a bit of money for us if we sell them for recycling, so don't let the emphasis on high quality donations put you off. Also don't be discouraged if some donations look rather old-fashioned—this is a feature, not a bug, as 50s, 60s and 70s clothes are popular at the moment.

If you're interested in running a Donation Day at work, please email emporium61@rspca-cambridge.org.uk or camshop@rspcabookshop.co.uk

Sunday, October 4, 2009

And on Goldfish

Slightly indignant query from my ardently animal-rights neighbour about RSPCA policy on goldfish as prizes. I vaguely thought this had been banned under the Animal Welfare Act, but she says there was a fair nearby where fish were being offered as prizes and a mutual friend complained to the RSPCA and was told it was still legal. They clearly felt this was a pretty poor show & somehow our fault, so I assured her we certainly do have a policy against it and, in fact, had tried quite hard to get a ban into the Act.

I've done a quick search and found the exact legal position on the e-petitions website:
"The Government considers that goldfish can be given as prizes provided the welfare of the animals is met and that suffering is not being caused.

The Government understands the concerns felt by some that animals should not be given as prizes. That is why the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the “2006 Act”) restricted the law on giving animals as prizes to people aged 16 years or over. The Act makes it an offence to fail to provide for the welfare needs of animal. The maximum penalty is a fine of £5,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both. It is also an offence to cause an animal any unnecessary suffering. The maximum penalty is a fine of £20,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both. The 2006 Act applies to goldfish given as prizes.

Under the 2006 Act anyone can take forward a prosecution if they think they have the necessary evidence or they can report it to the relevant body (local authority or RSPCA).

The law prevents children, unaccompanied by someone aged 16 years or over, obtaining an animal as a prize The Government believes that responsible adults should be able to decide for themselves whether to enter into a competition where an animal is given as a prize."
Which unfortunately doesn't spell out that the RSPCA can't simply issue a ban by fiat — it's necessary to produce evidence that the fish are not having their welfare needs met (over and above the welfare implications of being in a plastic bag). And incidentally it means the mutual friend will probably never support the RSPCA again even though it's not really a reasonable reaction.

Further thoughts on funding veterinary help

In some ways this is a vicious circle. The harder we work to raise more funds so we can do more than offer a painless end to animals whose owners can't afford their treatment costs the larger our annual income becomes.

This might sound very silly and obvious, but the "viciousness" comes in when potential volunteers and people who need help from us start to imagine that the RSPCA is so wealthy we could afford virtually anything. On the one hand potential volunteers and donors often feel they'd rather support smaller organisations who "really need" their help, even though they may be handling only a fraction of the numbers of animals that we do. On the other hand, the reaction when they hear we've turned down a request for help is very often: "If the RSPCA say they won't pay for X because they haven't enough money, I'm never going to give them another penny!"

It's significant that hardly any of the local veterinary surgery staff are RSPCA members and that conversations with them often leave me feeling that they think I'm being mean when I don't agree to pay the full cost of patients' treatment up front with no discussion.

Emergency treatment costs

I've taken four requests for help today on the branch emergency contact number. Three of these related to animals who were already registered at our clinic, which means that they are eligible to be seen by the vets who provide our subsidised out of hours cover. The fourth was a dog who'd never been seen at our clinic, so had to go to a commercial vet.
I keep banging on about registering with our clinic before an emergency happens if you are on a very low income (defined as being in receipt of state benefits, including working tax credit). The costs involved in getting these four animals treated show just why this is such an issue for us.
Two of the registered dogs had gastric problems, involving the owners in a £30 out of hours surcharge, plus the cost of drugs. One had a nasty wound which required surgery, at an all in cost to the owner of £200 (a struggle if you are on benefit, but not impossible).
The dog who went to the commercial vet had a similar wound which cost us £200 simply to get him seen and given antibiotics and pain relief and will probably cost another £200 (which the owner will be expected to pay) when he goes to the next available session at our own clinic.
If the commercial vet had stitched the wound we would be looking at about another £600, which simply is not a realistic proposition for us to pay.
It's all very well to say: "In that case, you ought to be running a subsidised out of hours service that will treat animals who haven't been pre-registered," because that would cost money we don't have, just as much as providing unlimited help via private vets does. (Because our service provider would charge us more for an unrestricted service).
Simple arithmetic demonstrates what I mean. The RSPCA overall gets roughly a million calls each year, which are either dealt with centrally or forwarded to the relevant branch. The National RSPCA's income is roughly £100 million and the combined branch income no more than another £50 million, making around £150 million available each year for everything we do.
Divide that £150 million by a million and you get an average of £150 available to deal with each call and you can see why we need to keep praying that a reasonable percentage of them won't need anything more than some advice.