Monday, September 13, 2010

The Minimum Animal Welfare Standards

Because of their relative autonomy from the parent society, RSPCA branches have always done their own thing to a certain extent, which is one of the reasons why services available vary so much between different parts of the country. In the very early days, all that was asked was that they should raise the funds to pay the salary of their local inspector. Gradually other facilities evolved, often because of individuals with a special interest in particular aspects of animal welfare (for example oiled seabirds). 

Periodically there are attempts to agree a certain amount of standardisation, usually via consultations at the Branch Officers' Conference or the Branch Animal Welfare Conference. I was one of the Cambridge branch delegates at the Branch Officers' Conference where the MAWS statement was  originally agreed (in the 1990s) and can vouch for it being a somewhat non-ideal meeting of tired individuals who had traveled long distances on Saturday morning after a full working week in their day jobs.

MAWS falls under four headings:
1. Animals accepted into branch care
  • Branches should be able to provide advice or assistance to animals of all species, even if only by referral to specialist organisations.
  • Animals taken in by the inspectorate, and in need of accommodation, should be seen as having first call on the branch's animal welfare resources. The branch with this responsibility for the animal is the one in whose area the animal is found.
  • Branches should aim to accept all companion animals offered to them for adoption, although this may not be achievable in the short term.
2. Rehoming
  • All dogs and cats should be micro chipped before rehoming in line with current Society policy.
  • Where an animal is offered for adoption and a pre-home visit is required in accordance with the rules, the potential adopter should initially be contacted within 48 hours and the visit itself should be conducted within a week. 
  • All animals for rehoming should be neutered, in line with current Society policy, (except where there are over-riding veterinary reasons for not doing so). In the case of animals that are too young to be neutered at the time of adoption, a neutering voucher should be issued and the branch should attempt to ensure that it is used.
3. Welfare Neutering 
  • All branches should establish a welfare neutering policy and budget. 
  • Support with welfare neutering of their animals should be offered at least to people on the following benefits: income support, working tax credit, housing benefit. 
  • Owners who fit the eligibility criteria should be offered a minimum contribution toward the cost of neutering their animals (suggested to be at least £10 or 10% of their bill)
4.  Assistance with Veterinary Treatment 
  • All branches should establish an appropriate veterinary assistance policy and budget. 
  • As with welfare neutering, help should be offered at least to people on income support, family credit or housing benefit. 
  • All people asking the RSPCA for assistance and meeting the eligibility criteria should be offered at least a contribution sufficient to ensure that their animal is seen by a veterinary surgeon (i.e. at least the cost of the consultation fee).

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