Saturday, June 19, 2010

AGM results and some thoughts on "governance"

A total of thirteen members attended our branch AGM yesterday, so we were comfortably quorate and everyone standing for re-election to the committee got in. However, thirteen people out of a branch membership of roughly 300 people is really not all that great, and a total membership of 300 isn't ultimately going to be enough to sustain services to 4,000-odd people long-term. Add in the wider population who expect us to be able to help with wildlife casualties, injured strays and so on, and it's just impossibly top-heavy.

The RSPCA is a very democratic charity—if you want to get rid of me, you can vote me out—but it depends on people being willing to participate, put in some work to achieve our goals and accept that majority decisions must be final. The idea of working within a structure of rules puts some people off because they think it's "bureaucratic" but without rules to decide who can make decisions and when a decision has been made the result would be chaos and nothing would ever get settled.

To participate in the decision-making processes of the RSPCA the first requirement is to become a member. Anyone with a genuine desire to help animals may join, although application from someone who wanted to use their membership for an ulterior purpose might be rejected (for example someone who joined in order to reverse the Society's policies against battery farming would have their application refused).

Three months after joining a member is entitled to receive voting papers for National Society elections and to attend their local branch AGM and vote in the election of the branch committee. They are also entitled to stand for election to their branch committee, but are not eligible to stand for election to the National Society's ruling council until they have been members for at least five years.

Branch elections do sometimes result in policy changes (although a lot of the time just getting enough people elected to form a committee is a struggle). Thirty years ago this branch did no rehoming at all, and this was only changed when a group of new people were elected to the committee. What happened wasn't exactly like a parliamentary election as members of both the old group and the new group were elected at the AGM (creating a much larger committee than before), but the new group formed a majority and put through the policy change. This kind of sudden shift is comparatively unusual and most of the time committees gain just a few new individuals each year.

This poses a problem in itself because new members are essential if committees aren't to wind up composed entirely of octogenarians, but being the only person who doesn't understand what's going on can make newly elected members feel the rest are forming a clique to exclude them. If you join a branch, be patient, and don't expect to understand everything immediately. Branches are complicated organisations, handling substantial amounts of money and requiring a lot of sustained work to keep them going. If you join in and help with existing activities you'll find it all gradually falls into place (and you'll have a wonderful command of acronyms—NCC, IET, RTA, RHQ—just like everyone else!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That Channel 4 programme

Grim shop meeting this evening at 188 Mill Road. It's now long enough since the Channel 4 anti-RSPCA "documentary" to assess some of its impact and donations have been hit significantly. At least one commercial house-clearance agent who regularly gave the shop old books it was too much trouble for him to sell has stopped because he now believes we've got plenty of money and aren't spending it on the animals. The antique centre round the corner in Gwydir st is apparently telling customers not to give to the RSPCA: "because they've got loads of money and don't care about animals".

I'm sure the Channel 4 programme makers thought they were very daring and anti-establishment—it would be daring and anti-establishment to cut NHS funding (after all it's got a million times as much cash as the RSPCA) and just let sick people die, but that wouldn't make it a good idea.

Ironically Dogs Today this month is featuring the Animals Count party as "the political party that wants an NHS for dogs". It would be more useful if they hadn't done their level best to destroy the closest thing to an animals' NHS that exists, although I respect Beverley Cuddy for being willing to allow honest discussion in the comments of her articles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reminder: Branch AGM this Thursday

Just a reminder that the branch AGM is this Thursday, 17th June at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Meeting starts at 7.30 pm. Anyone interested in the RSPCA is very welcome to attend, but only adult members of the Society can vote in the election of the committee.

If you are a member, please do try to attend as we need to have enough qualified voting members present for a valid election.

Map  below. There is parking close to the hall in the multi-story car park nearby in Park Street.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness...

But it is b. annoying when someone is trying to knock the matches out of your hand.

It is truly terrifying that this was apparently written by a fairly senior politician.

He says:
"Now I gather the RSPCA like other animal welfare charities receives no government funding which makes this policy change even more bizarre"
Why is it bizarre that the RSPCA needs to make choices about which animals are in greatest need because we depend on donations and fundraising instead of being able to raise income from taxes?

He says:
"we have had both cats and dogs from their branch at Radcliffe on Trent - and was never happy that they only housed animals for 7 days before putting them to sleep, but now to just shut their doors is shameful."
If he had looked at the Radcliffe's website he would have seen that many of the animals advertised for rehoming had been in their care for many months and the "only 7 days" claim is just not true. If he had bothered to read the main RSPCA website he would have seen that the RSPCA is not "shutting its doors"; we are giving the most needy animals priority so that they are guaranteed a safe place.

He seems incapable of understanding that reducing donations to the RSPCA will mean fewer animals can be helped and he has no idea that the Radcliffe home is run by volunteers, or indeed what a very large part of the RSPCA is run by volunteer trustees who are permanently worried about raising funds to carry on. Judging from his Twitter feed he doesn't see any reason at all why someone like me should be upset—after all I am only a volunteer. He doesn't appear to know or care about the very low-income families who use RSPCA clinics and hospitals for their pets.
It's the irresponsible, campaign mentality that's so terrifying. He really does think all he needs to do is to put enough pressure on us and we'll magically do everything he wants out of a bottomless pit of funds. I don't think it much matters which political party is in power—only that the people at the top should have experience of running something productive themselves, not predominantly campaigning.

Branch animal welfare statistics so far this year

Rehomed: 13 dogs, 23 cats, 4 rabbits and 6 miscellaneous animals.

Veterinary treatments given: 1,110 dogs, 505 cats 46 rabbits and 26 miscellaneous animals.

67 dogs and 57 cats neutered, 44 dogs and 52 cats microchipped.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spitting tacks!

Why do people who can't afford any veterinary treatment choose to keep big dogs and breed from them without making any effort to find out beforehand whether any help is going to be available if things go wrong?

Yesterday our clinic had a phone call from an owner saying his dog couldn't stand up and he wanted one of our vets to go out to see her. The reception staff on duty persuaded him to find someone who could bring her to the clinic and fortunately he managed this before the duty vets were due to leave. It turned out that she had mastitis and high fever, which hopefully can be treated with antibiotics, but if he'd left it any later she'd very probably have died. We don't know the status of her puppies.

It's one thing if an animal has an expensive accident out of the blue, but to breed a bitch knowing that you can't afford to take her to a vet in normal surgery hours if she gets an infection and not make any effort to find out whether there is an RSPCA or PDSA clinic locally, or how to go about registering there, really takes the biscuit.