Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fighting the last war...

The UK has a 94.75% save rate for stray dogs collected by local authorities. I don't know of any comparable statistics for cats, but the RSPCA's internal figures indicate a 95% save rate for cats without severe injuries or illness. 

There is a problem of unwanted pets in this country, and dealing with it is rather like painting the Forth bridge, but it is manageable with effort, good-will and provision of subsidised pet neutering services for owners on low incomes and TNR (Trap Neuter Release) for feral cats. There is a worse problem in Ireland, and some UK-based rescues have made a decision to bring animals in from there in order to give them a guaranteed future.

So why are we being pushed into fighting the last war instead of dealing with the current one, which is the problem of ensuring that sick or injured animals (whether owned or not) receive at least basic first aid and that all animals taken in as cruelty/neglect cases have a guaranteed safe place to go? Why, indeed, is the battle to provide 24/7 access to basic first aid at risk of being lost as a result of what seems to be a combination of malice and self-righteousness?

The RSPCA is the only animal welfare organisation in England and Wales which runs a 24/7 365 day general-purpose rescue service, with a telephone helpline provided by our national control centre and frontline staff working round the clock. It's the only organisation with a network of volunteer branches (some admittedly not in a very thriving state) covering the whole of England and Wales and dedicated to rehoming the animals rescued by the frontline staff.
A lot of our problems stem from the fact that everyone with a special interest that falls within the remit of the RSPCA thinks that it ought to get first call on our efforts.
See, for example, this, this, this and this.
Or, alternatively, this, this and this (being middle of the road is a recipe for getting shot at from both sides).
Every one of these special interest groups attempts to stop donations to the RSPCA and to discourage people from joining the Society except with a view to forcing it to further the special interest. All of them are primarily interested in taking, not giving and ultimately that simply won't be sustainable. 
I worry about the impact on the next generation of potential members, volunteers and trustees of the RSPCA branches. If they are continually hearing variations on: "I will not give a penny to the RSPCA, because they have not said one single word about ..." (never mind that the missing words may be diametrically opposed), it must be having some effect. 
I suspect there is already a generation which has been diverted into efforts that are at best less productive than they could be, and at worst coming very close to focussing on what are virtually fantasy animals instead of those who can be helped and need help right now. We are keeping the affection of the broad public, but losing those people who would have become the dedicated volunteers and trustees needed for the immense effort of running successful branches.
If you want animal welfare work to continue to progress in England and Wales, please consider joining the RSPCA and supporting the practical, educational, and, yes, campaigning, work that we do.

If you have any doubt that the UK situation is better than in the US, please take a look at these web-pages:

 and this:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

I think I must have carted roughly my own weight of pet food and cat litter over the past 24 hours. However anything we've not got by now will have to wait until the shops open again.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Please consider supporting our Christmas Appeal: animals will go on needing help all through the holiday period and beyond.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the Season to be Jolly

Mistletoe from £2.00 a bunch at our charity shop at 61 Burleigh Street. We also have other decorations, cards and gifts as well as all our usual stock.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Buy a mug and fund our animal welfare services for five minutes!

Photo mugs 

Dog design

Cat design
If you're searching for some inexpensive last-minute gifts, then look no further. 

These cute mugs featuring animals rehomed by the branch during the past year are available at our charity shops at 188 Mill Road and 61 Burleigh Street, at £4.75 each.

Every mug bought will make enough profit to run our  services for five minutes (so we need to sell a lot of mugs!)

If you live in Cambridge, please tell your friends.

While they're shopping for mugs they can also look out for some wonderful bargains and gift ideas in our Burleigh Street general charity shop and for a range of fascinating reading in our second hand bookshop at 188 Mill Road.

Animal emotions, citizen science and the promotion of welfare

There's a lot of interest in the cognition of dogs and whether they've evolved to be especially capable of recognising human signals and facial expressions. Cats have been rather left out of this, so it's interesting to find two projects which are almost mirror images of the dog ones — not how good cats are at reading human behaviour, but how well humans can interpret cats.

The tagpuss project at the University of Lincoln aims to investigate the feasibility of studying animal emotions using "citizen science".
Citizen science is a term that describes a partnership between ordinary citizens and scientists working together in real scientific studies. This partnership means we can create large research teams with networks of volunteers who have little training in the area of research to peform tasks such as observation, measurement and computation.
In the case of tagpuss, the volunteers are shown random images of cats and asked to add tags which describe the cats' emotions. Once the image is tagged the system reveals a word cloud showing which tags have been selected by other participants.

It's evident that there's generally a fair degree of agreement, even if it's not perfect — it might be enlightening to compare agreement over tagging images of human emotions (for instance is this person terrified, angry, shocked? )

This can have practical implications for the way we view and look after cats. The extremely rich and subtle social and emotional signals they display help to dispel the idea that they are rather simple unsocial animals. Finding out more about our ability to interpret cats' emotional signals can also help to improve assessment of individual cats—as in the ASPCA "Is that cat feral" study which is intended to help shelters decide which cats are suitable for adoption as domestic pets and which would be happier if they were simply neutered and released back to their original location.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Clinic opening hours over Christmas

The Cambridge RSPCA animal clinic will be CLOSED on Saturday 25th December, Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th December. It will also be closed on New Year's day (Saturday 1st January). All other times as normal. In case of emergency, phone the mobile contact number on your pet's clinic registration card and arrangements will be made for your pet to be seen at the University Vet School.

Please note that the Vet School staff are only able to see animals who have been registered by attending the normal clinic.

If your pet is on long-term medication or a prescription diet, please make sure that you order and collect any repeat prescriptions in good time. This means that the Tuesday session is the last opportunity before Christmas if you need to order medications for collection at the Thursday 23rd December session.

Prescriptions can only be ordered by phoning the clinic (01223 247 986) on a clinic morning. It is not possible to order them by phoning the emergency mobile as the branch contacts answering the mobile do not have access to any of the medical records.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Points from yesterday's "tweetathon"

Except for the one incident involving a large number of rabbits, these are selected from the events which had outcomes recorded during the session.

The codes N, SE, E, SSW refer to the area of the country where the incident happened. We are in E [East] region. I've automatically converted the entries to sentence case to make them a bit easier to read than the feed copy/pasted from the NCC's feed.

On Thursday 16th December 2010, @RSPCA_Frontline said:

**Update** re: N: dog. Shivering, not weight bearing on back rt leg, found tied to fence with metal chain . Noticed at 07:20. (15/12)

Officer attended. Dog collected. In poor condition. No trace/evidence of who abandoned dog. Dog taken to animal home for treatment and boarding ahead of rehoming if no trace of owner. 

**update** re; SE: dog. Was hit by a car. Blood on face, dragging a leg. Happened 10-15mins ago. Owner unknown. (15/12)

Officer attended. Dog collected and owner traced and advised dog now at rspca hospital receiving treatment for injuries.

**update** re: dog. On hard shoulder hit by car. Excessive bleeding on a front leg. Traffic officer needs assistance as unable 2 transport 2 vets (15/12)

Officer attended. Dog microchipped. Reunited with owner at vets for treatment.

**update** re: SSW: cat. Found at school. V old and heavily matted coat.

Officer attended. Cat collected and taken to rspca establishment for care.

**update** re: N: cat.dragging back legs. Not known what has happened to cat. Found in street this confined in callers bathroom.

Vets initially refused to treat cat without payment.

Officer spoke to vets and they will now accept cat if RSPCA pays. Cat has been taken to vets for treatment by caller. If cat survives, will then be collected by RSPCA to try and find original owner or rehome.  

**update** re; N: cat. Owner moved out 1 week ago. Cat outside very thin and shaking


Officer attended. Cat collected and taken to vets for examination and treatment. Is very thin and weak. Cruelty case/investigation commenced.

[warning – this one is quite shocking. There is much more detail on the actual allegation but too much and too graphic for me to post here]

N: rabbits. Dying. Some of the rabbits are full of disease and very ill. No vet treatment. Rabbits living in horrendeous filth cages & cages 7 inches deep in faeces, no water in any of the cages and no food. Confined in tiny. Supplies pet shops with rabbits.

**Update** re: N: dog.unable 2 put 1 back leg 2 ground.leg broken? Crying a lot.found lst nite on field nearby. Dog warden refuses to collect due to injury.

Officer attended.

Male entire staff bull terrier. No collar. No ID. Limping on back left leg. Taken to local vets. 

These are only a very small selection of the total number of incidents (1195 on the 16th) allocated by the control centre to frontline staff. These in turn are only about a third of the total number of calls answered by the NCC during the day. Many of the remaining two thirds will have been resolved by advice, a request for the caller to take the animal direct to a vet, or referral to the caller's local branch, but inevitably there is a degree of rationing by apparent seriousness of the incident. Callers requesting collection of healthy, but apparently stray cats will normally be told we don't believe it is in the cat's best interest to remove it from an environment where it is thriving. Finders of healthy, uninjured stray dogs will be referred to Local Authority dog wardens.

Most incidents which result in an injured or neglected animal being collected will eventually mean a call on local branch funds to pay for continuing veterinary treatment or for the animal to be cared for until it can be rehomed.

An incident involving large numbers of animals (like the rabbits mentioned above) will normally be coped with by several branches working together to share the animals out among their available foster carers and boarding facilities.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Follow the RSPCA Control Centre online today

From 9 am until 5 pm today the RSPCA's National Control Centre tasking system will be shadowed on Twitter, with every incident allocated to frontline staff being "tweeted" online. You can view the calls by following @RSPCA_Frontline on Twitter (or just click the link to see all the calls so far).

On average someone in England and Wales calls the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 every 30 seconds. The National Control Centre received more than 1.25 million phone calls last year and responds to around 1,000 incidents a day. (This is in addition to calls made to the individual branches).

Inspector Tony Woodley, communications and liaison officer for the RSPCA inspectorate, set up the RSPCA_Frontline Twitter feed as he wanted to publicise the work of the RSPCA’s 288 inspectors, 119 animal welfare officers and 74 animal collection officers. 

The idea of using Twitter to give readers a realistic impression of the sheer scale of workload coming in was first thought of by Greater Manchester Police.

I hope the exercise will go some way towards combatting the attitude that, if the RSPCA doesn't succeed in solving all calls to deal with animal related problems, the right thing to do is to hammer us by reducing donations until we can't deal with any of them.

Please also remember that, although the frontline staff deal with the immediate incidents, they depend on us, the branches, to provide subsequent continuing care. It's also essential that branch services are available for those callers who just need to be directed to a source of low-cost veterinary help.

If you would like to make a donation towards the continuing work of RSPCA Cambridge, please follow the link to our page on the JustGiving fundraising site.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Branch Christmas Appeal

Help us reach our target of raising £2000 to fund our services over the Christmas period.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Message from Katie, who will be trying to pull together our branch volunteering activities

Just to let everyone know that the volunteers meeting will be held, as usual, at Emporium 61 on Burleigh Street next Thursday (16th December) beginning at 7.30pm. I hope to see as many of you there as possible!  As of January we will be holding these regular meetings at the Cornerhouse Pub on Newmarket Road and hope that this will make for a nicer atmosphere as well as encourage a few more new faces!
I have attached the proposed fundraising calendar for next year and as always we will require any help that you can offer. Be it an hour, a day or a week! (Particularly for fundraisers during RSPCA week really anytime you can spare will make a difference).
Just to introduce myself a little more formally, my name is Katie and I recently graduated from the University of Exeter, currently I am working in Sawston for a small market research company. As I work 9-5.30, email is the best way to get in touch with me but I am hoping to become a central point of contact for all volunteers. I want to make sure that everyone is happy so any feedback you can offer will be greatly appreciated. Another part of my role is recruiting new volunteers as well as coordinating the volunteers needed for some of our larger events such as RSPCA week and hopefully next year our sponsored dog walk and dog show!
I will be using an email list to let you all know what is going on, any events that are coming up and general reminders. I fully appreciate that no one wants to be bombarded with emails and so I will try and keep this to a bare minimum. If you would like to be taken off of this list for ANY reason please do let me know!
Anyway Happy Holidays to all of you and thank you for all of your hard work this year!!
Best Wishes

(If you would like to be added to the volunteering email list, please send an email to


One World Week @ University of Cambridge : Work for A charity  event


RSPCA Week (2nd-8th May)
Sponsored Dog Walk Half term (30th May- 3rd of June)
Microchipping day/ Dog Show we are hoping to combine an ‘alternative dog show’ with a microchipping event for dogs £10 per microchip with an average saving of £10 which raises £6 for each microchip
RSPCA AGM-end of June
Summer activities- Bingo night/ Pub Quiz/ Treasure Hunt/ Race night/ bat walk one activity a fortnight over the summer
Pole Dancing/ Pilates/ Yoga trials
Freshers Fair @ Cambridge university


Mill Road Christmas light switch on
Mill Road Winter Fair
Meeting for next year’s fundraising calendar
Christmas Event- All ideas welcome!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Animal Welfare Statistics for November

In November, our clinic treated 218 dogs, 119 cats, three rabbits and seven miscellaneous "small furries".

We rehomed six cats, but took in an alarming total of eleven rabbits, which had been signed over to our local inspector for welfare reasons. As a result, the total number of animals we currently have in our care has gone up from 42 to 52. 

Fortunately the rabbits can be kept in foster care, which is less expensive for us than commercial boarding, but it's a worrying trend as rabbit adoptions tend to be lower during the winter months when potential adopters really don't feel like doing outdoor carpentry to erect rabbit runs. If our inspectors had another large intake of rabbits we would have to tell them we have no space.

Interest in keeping rabbits as indoor pets - just like our cats or dogs - is growing and may be part of the solution to the problem of unwanted rabbits. 

You can view some of the rabbits on our rehoming gallery.

If you are interested in adopting a pair of rabbits from the branch, please email 

Monday, December 6, 2010


Three days running I've had desperate people ringing late at night with animals who need to see a vet urgently. At that time of day it costs £100 just for the consultation and at the moment there isn't any way we could afford to pay that much each evening because it would mean an annual spend of £36,500. That  would be more than the annual cost of running our clinic, which treats ten times as many animals each year.

Last night I was called about a dog who had been badly mauled by another and needed £700 of emergency treatment, followed by transfer to our clinic for surgery on his broken leg. Again - that's just not possible for us and it is tragic that the owner hadn't registered his dog at our clinic because that would have meant our own veterinary provider would have been prepared to see him at a much lower rate.

By and large these are not people who are bad owners or unwilling to pay for routine veterinary care, but they just don't have the resources to find £100 at 5 minutes notice. Getting the animals signed over to us to be rehomed is not a solution because it would just add the cost of boarding to the treatment cost which we have not got.

Please give us your support so that we can do at least something to help these animals in future. Any saleable unwanted items that you can donate to our shops at 188 Mill Road or 61 Burleigh Street will help us to raise more funds.

We also need fundraising volunteers and more volunteers to help out with running the shops and collecting items to sell. Could you organise a "donate, don't dump" day at your place of work, with everyone being asked to bring in at least one item to give to the shops?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pictures from the Mill Road Winter Fair

Remaining tombola prizes

Guess the name of the pink pony (slip us a fiver and we'll make sure you don't have to take it home)

Katie and Ffiona looking very cold!
Total amount raised (including books sold in the shop) was £540. One of the benefits of the Winter Fair event is that it helps publicise the bookshop to local people who never normally walk down Mill Road.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Official summary of the legal position on stray dogs in the UK

This is in fact from the Advertising Standards Authority website, which has published their adjudication on a complaint from a member of the public about the Dogs Trust's TV adverts, but it's a useful statement of the facts.


A viewer challenged whether the claim "Dogs Trust never put a healthy dog down", was misleading, because she understood that that the Dogs Trust handed strays over to the Council Dog Warden who, if they were not reclaimed by their owners after seven days, might put them down.



Dog's Trust said, under section 150 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, anyone finding a stray dog must "forthwith" either "return the dog to its owner" or "take the dog to the officer of the local authority (LA) for the area in which the dog was found". Therefore, if a stray dog was brought to one of their Rehoming Centres by a member of the public or was abandoned there, they had an inescapable legal obligation to immediately notify the local Dog Warden about where and when the dog was found. In view of that, it was not in their interest to suggest in their advertising that they could accept stray dogs found by members of the public.
Dogs Trust said it was rare for a member of the public to approach their Rehoming Centres to ask them to take in a stray dog. However, in those instances, the person was always advised of their legal responsibility to contact the dog warden. If the person was unwilling to do that or if the dog warden was unavailable, the Rehoming Centre might act as the "finder" of the dog and pass it to the LA at the earliest opportunity.
They added that section 149 of the EPA required the LA to keep any stray dog for a period of seven clear days in order to allow the owner to reclaim the dog. If the dog was not reclaimed after that time, it could be passed to Dogs Trust, or a similar welfare organisation, for rehoming; legal title to the dog then also passed to them.
Dogs Trust said, typically, their kennels contained over 1,000 dogs at any one time. They explained that their 17 Rehoming Centres around the UK cared for around 16,000 dogs a year; around 50% were handed over by members of the public no longer able to care for their dogs and the remaining 50% came from other animal rescue organisations or LA kennels after the expiration of the statutory seven-day period prescribed by the EPA.
Dogs Trust said the claim that they never put a healthy dog down was true. In 2009, they cared for 15,886 dogs. Of those, 226 either died in their care or were put to sleep on veterinary advice; that equated to less than 1.5% of the dogs in their care. Dogs Trust were proud of the fact that so few dogs were put to sleep given that many came to them with severe illness or injury. They said a dog could only be put to sleep on the advice of a veterinary surgeon and if there was any doubt about the dog's quality of life, then second opinions were sought.
Dogs Trust said they could not be held responsible for the fate of dogs passed to the LA under statutory requirements. They nevertheless pointed out that independently conducted market research for the year up to 31 March 2010 indicated that of the strays handed in to LAs, only 2.8% were put to sleep for reasons other than ill health.
They said the ad was not currently scheduled to be broadcast again but that they did intend to use it again in future.


Not upheld
The ASA understood that Dogs Trust only put down dogs on the grounds of ill health following the advice of a veterinary surgeon and that, in 2009, less than 1.5% of the dogs they had cared for were put down on such advice.
We also understood that Dogs Trust had a statutory obligation to pass any stray dog handed in to them to the Council Dog Warden for the statutory seven-day period stipulated by the EPA. We noted that, after that period had elapsed, if the dog was not reunited with its owner, it might be passed to Dogs Trust or a similar welfare organisation or it might be re-homed by the LA itself. Furthermore, we understood that the only circumstance in which Dogs Trust would not accept a dog from the LA was if they did not have the kennel space to accommodate it. We noted from the independent market research figures provided that a small percentage of those dogs received by LAs for the year up to 31 March 2010 had been put down for reasons other than ill health. We nevertheless considered that the fate of those dogs was beyond the control of Dogs Trust given their statutory obligations and, because we understood that those healthy dogs whose fate was within their control were not put down, concluded that the claim was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising) and 16.3.1 (Charities) but did not find it in breach.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Failing a miracle...

Unless something very unexpected "turns up" it is looking as though we will have no choice but to say we can no longer fund treatment for unowned strays over and above the initial £60 which the National Society pays for initial emergency treatment. 

Veterinary charges have increased all round over the past year and it is becoming less and less sustainable to pay for treatment costs which can run away with hundreds of pounds for every animal. 

One option would be to put a strict limit on the amount we can afford to pay per animal, but then what happens when (as would almost always be the case) our extra hundred pounds simply covers x-rays or tests that show a further £200 is required if the animal is to be treated? In a sense that would only mean we'd wasted the first hundred pounds, which could have helped more animals if it was used for something else.

Our first responsibility must be to maintain the clinic, which treats thousands of animals, and to rehome animals taken in by our inspectors.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Video showing some of the work of our clinic

Sadly, Star, the cat featured in the video, suffered heart failure a few weeks after it was filmed. He was given treatment at the Vet School as an inpatient, but died shortly after admission.

Heart problems are a common complication of an over-active thyroid (which is what was wrong with Star), because basically the whole of the cat's metabolism starts running at an excessive rate. This can overload the heart and weaken it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rabbits galore

An un-neutered male (presumably their dad, but what happened to mum???) and eight baby rabbits in from one of the Hertfordshire villages we cover.

Two strays from the Newmarket/Ely area and an abandonment at one of our local vets, mean that all our foster accommodation is now full up and we will have to use relatively expensive commercial pet boarding facilities if any more come in.

If your rabbit has gone missing, please email our rehoming co-ordinator in case one of them is yours.

Stray rabbits are quite often reported to us, and we take in any that can be caught as they are very vulnerable to predators and also at risk from myxomatosis. Often catching them is virtually impossible as rabbits are not easily attracted using food as bait because grass is everywhere.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

61 Burleigh Street shop closed Monday 29th November

The RSPCA shop at 61 Burleigh Street, Cambridge will be closed all day on Monday 29th November so we can reorganise the sales space and put up our Christmas decorations.

We'll be open as normal from Tuesday 30th, with lots of extra rail space for clothes. We depend on you to keep the donations coming so we can fill all of it (please!)

If you're having a pre-Christmas clear-out, we can raise funds from any textile items, even ones that are completely worn out, as these can be sold for recycling. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bookshop looking festive

Apologies for the rather gloomy picture of Sharon; the light inside the shop isn't really bright enough for non-flash photos in late afternoon.

Many thanks to the volunteers who worked so hard decorating the shop: it looks wonderful.

Lots of cards and inexpensive gifts inside and enough books to tide the most addicted reader over the festive season.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rabbit Hutches/Runs

Does anyone out there have a rabbit hutch and/or run of a decent size that's in reasonable condition and that they no longer want? We have a new rabbit fosterer who needs to be kitted out with suitable accommodation. 

He already has one run that would be suitable for rabbits if a hutch was set up inside it for the rabbits to be shut in at night for safety, so a hutch on its own would still be useful.

Experimental news aggregator

The RSPCA official press officers and several RSPCA branches are now on twitter. The summary below is from - a news aggregation service that will combine tweets from specified accounts into a daily report. Note that this is all done by a machine, not a human, and occasionally some of the headings selected are a little strange: Why does it think DogLost should go under "Entertainment"?

The adverts that are included are by and presumably are what generates their income.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nice to hear from one of our "EARS" pensioners

Ghost when he was in our kennels
Most of the time I groan when I open an envelope and it's yet another vet bill, but this time it was actually quite pleasing (at only £36) to know that Ghost is still pottering along and enjoying life in his adoptive home.

He's now had slightly more than two years of good life since being adopted (and hopefully more to come), and we feel that our decision to persevere with him has been vindicated. There's always a worry with older animals that keeping them in kennels long-term isn't doing them any favours if there's no realistic prospect of a decent future before them.

Some animals are clearly going to be slower to find new homes than others, particularly if they have the double disadvantage of belonging to an over-popular breed and being a little "over the hill" age-wise.

Where adopters may be put off because of the prospect of age-related vet bills it may be possible to arrange adoption under the "EARS" — Elderly Animals Rehoming Scheme, whereby we will cover part of the cost of veterinary treatment after adoption.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Novelty squirrel nutcrackers

I don't know how effective this little chap is at cracking nuts, but he's very cute.

Recently donated to our Burleigh St. Charity shop.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stray dogs

The National RSPCA website has a news item on the concern that dog warden services are likely to be selected for cutbacks. There are some indications that simply abolishing a statutory service as a cost-saving measure is being considered by some politicians—Hammersmith and Fulham's website bluntly states that "Passing the responsibility for stray dogs onto the RSPCA" would save council funds.

Which would be all very well if we really did have limitless funds, which we do not.

It may help if I give a bit of background to explain the current legal situation in relation to stray dogs.

Until 2008, responsibility was shared between the local authority and the Police. The LA was expected to run a dog warden service during normal working hours (9-5 Mon-Fri), while the Police would take in dogs brought to police stations outside those times, or when a dog warden was otherwise not contactable.

The LA was responsible for arranging kennelling for at least 7 days, after which the dog would either be transferred to a rescue organisation, rehomed directly or put to sleep.

In 2008 responsibility was transferred to the local authority, although instead of the dog warden service being expanded to cover 24/7, most LAs simply made some kind of arrangement for "drop-off" points where stray dogs could be taken. The major problem with this is that many people who find stray dogs don't have suitable transport, whereas at least some of them could have walked to their local police station.

Stray dogs never were "the responsibility" of the RSPCA, although most branches take in some dogs from LA kennels; sometimes after the 7 day period is up, and sometimes directly from the dog warden. Sometimes dogs may be taken in directly from the public, either because they're found injured, or because they're in danger, but most animal centres can't take in dogs round the clock. Branches like us which rehome from private boarding kennels can't reasonably expect the staff to turn out at all hours except in very exceptional emergency situations.

I get an impression that many people often believe that the local authority holding kennels are "the RSPCA"—probably in some circumstances because the LA and RSPCA both board dogs at the same private kennels.

We don't ourselves as a branch routinely take in stray dogs from local authorities, although we're occasionally asked to take a dog to save his life and would do our best to stretch funds to accommodate one in that situation.

It looks as though we may be facing a situation in which we are being asked to take up more and more work that's being offloaded from elsewhere.

In which case fundraising has to be our highest priority at the moment. It is no good complaining that we are "all about money". Without money we can't pay vets bills or buy cat and dog food. We can save some costs by getting animals into foster homes, but realistically we still need to use boarding facilities for some animals.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can anyone offer a home to Charlie?

Charlie was handed in to the police and was  going to be put down because his 7 days were up, so we were asked to take him on.

He's a Staffordshire cross, but gets on well with other dogs. 

There's more information about him on our Rehoming Gallery.

UPDATE: Just to remove any misunderstanding; we stepped in to SAVE Charlie—the 7 day time limit is the statutory length of time a local authority is required to pay kennelling fees for unowned dogs. Once this time limit is up a dog may be passed on to a rescue organisation (us in this case), rehomed directly, or put to sleep.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Animal Welfare Statistics for October

During October our clinic treated 213 dogs, 117 cats, 3 rabbits and 4 miscellaneous "small furries", and also neutered 12 dogs and 5 cats - a welcome sign that interest in neutering is picking up again.

We rehomed 4 cats, 1 dog and 1 rabbit.

In the total year to date we've provided 3,595 treatments for sick animals, neutered 215 animals and rehomed 94 animals. Of animals taken in for rehoming, only 8 had to be put to sleep on veterinary advice.

RSPCA Cambridge photo-mugs now available

Branch photo-mugs

The mugs come in two different designs: cats or dogs (sorry, no rabbits this time). Both designs feature animals rehomed by the branch during the past year.

They're now on sale, priced at £4.75, at our second-hand bookshop, 188 Mill road, and will also be available at various stalls we're doing in the run-up to Christmas. We make 99p profit on each mug, which will be ploughed back into our rehoming program.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paying vet bills in austerity Britain

Increased charges for veterinary treatment are very likely to be one knock-on effect of the drive to reduce public spending. Training to be a vet requires a six year course—potentially meaning a newly qualified vet could have a debt of £54,000 if he or she trained at a university that charged the maximum £9,000 p.a. 

The increased cost of becoming a vet is inevitably going to end up being passed on to animal owners, because vets have to survive and pay their mortgages like anyone else.

If you have a reasonable income and only a few pets, it makes sense to take out pet insurance. Read the small print and discuss it with your vet as some policies may be more suited to your particular circumstances than others. Be aware that pre-existing conditions will not be covered, and it may be difficult to get cover for older animals at all. Look for a policy that will give continued cover as your pet ages, and check the size of the "excess" which you will have to pay yourself for each illness. If this figure is more than you would be able to find the policy will not be much use! Check whether the company will pay your vet direct or if you will be expected to pay the whole cost then claim it back.

Some vets offer "in-house" insurance which may be a good buy as such policies often give discounts on the cost of routine treatments, such as annual vaccinations, and they usually mean you do not have to pay the full cost of treatment and claim it back.

If you have a large number of animals it may be more cost-effective to pay a set amount of money into a savings account each month and use that to cover the cost of vet bills. If you decide to do this you need to have the will-power not to dip into this emergency fund for any other expenses.

If you know you couldn't afford pet insurance and you couldn't pay for treatment at a private vet if your pet was ill you need to make plans to decide what you would do to safeguard their welfare. 

The RSPCA, PDSA and the Blue Cross all have schemes to help low income pet owners, but there is no guarantee that this will be available in your local area—although the RSPCA does its best to ensure at least minimal help is available throughout England and Wales.

Don't assume that there will always be a free or low-cost animal clinic available in your locality; it may well be the case that the only help available will be a voucher for part-payment at a private vet. More help may be available if you have registered your animal with the charity before an emergency arises, because this will make it possible for them to check your proofs of low income.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Branch Volunteers Meeting

Put a note in your diaries.

The next informal RSPCA Cambridge volunteers meeting will be on 18th November at our charity shop, 61 Burleigh Street, Cambridge. 7.30pm start.

All welcome, coffee and biscuits provided. We will be continuing to plan our fundraising diary for the run-up to Christmas and the following year.

Next year will be the 75th anniversary of an RSPCA clinic in Cambridge and we need to fundraise hard to ensure it continues to provide a service over the next 75 years!

As the cost of veterinary treatment continues to rise, the clinic becomes more and more important for very low income pet owners in this area. At the same time the costs involved in running the clinic are also increasing and there are times when we feel we are on a treadmill with no way off.

In the current economic climate it's unlikely that we can increase donations of cash, so it's ever more important that we develop fundraising activities like events and shops which also benefit those who spend money in terms of entertainment or good value bargains.