Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Numbers

In 2009 the RSPCA re-homed 16,659 dogs. It put down 533 healthy dogs because they could not be rehomed — just over three per cent.

In the same year it neutered 24,861 dogs and provided a total of 217,497 low-cost veterinary treatments for pets (cats, dogs and other species).

Three-quarters of all rehoming is done at RSPCA branches, which are all run largely by volunteers.

We desperately need to increase this volunteer base so that no animals have to be turned away.

If you might be interested in joining the RSPCA, visit or

Friday, August 6, 2010

More thoughts on Britain's Unwanted Pets

In his book and elsewhere Nathan Winograd promoted the concept of the "No-Kill Equation" listing the programs which needed to be set up if a community was to end the destruction of healthy unwanted pets.

We could be so close...

The No-Kill Equation

I. Feral Cat TNR (Trap Neuter Return)
Like everything else this needs more volunteers, money and effort, but the fundamental argument has been won. Virtually no-one catches feral cats to "save" them by putting them down as it's been recognised that they're essentially a wild animal that loosely associates with humans and that the humane thing is to control numbers by neutering.
II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Anyone who wants to get their pet neutered and doesn't have enough money can find help somewhere, though they might need to search for it. We've more or less achieved a point where every puppy or kitten bred has a value to someone.

III. Rescue Groups
There are not enough of them, but one positive aspect of the Panorama program was the fact that local authority pounds were ringing round asking if anyone could take animals whose time was running out. There didn't seem to be any reluctance to release pound animals to small rescues to give them a better chance.

It may help that there seems to be a much less confrontational attitude to saving "death row" pound dogs. Pound rescue groups regularly post online begging for homes with details of animals  who will be put down unless a placement is found within the next few days, but I don't think I've ever seen a post that attempted to "name and shame" particular pounds.

IV. Foster Care
Comparatively few pounds operate as animal shelters in quite the way that they do in the USA and animals are normally passed on to other rescue organisations. Battersea and Wood Green are exceptions. The RSPCA, which is one of the largest rehoming organisations for cats and dogs, does three-quarters of its rehoming via the network of volunteer-run branches and it's probably easier in some ways for volunteers to recruit and assess other volunteers as suitable fosterers.

We always need more foster carers, although we may not be very good at getting back to you immediately because we're so overwhelmed with things that need doing.

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs
Again, because of the heavy involvement of volunteers, it's often actually easier for us to visit adopters and arrange adoptions at weekends and in the evening when more of us are available.
VI. Pet Retention
Absolutely crucial.

I believe this is a very important area where not enough is known about what's happening on the ground. If large numbers of pets are being put down at vets because their owners can't pay for treatment this isn't really any better than if the same animals were handed in to a shelter that then put them down because it didn't have funds for treatment.

The RSPCA runs a network of clinics and animal hospitals, but in many areas there is not much more than a safety net service of assistance with the cost of treatment at private vets. This may not do very much more than make it possible to treat minor problems like infections and flea allergy and to ensure that suffering animals are put down rather than being allowed to die.

This is one of the most expensive things we try to do and it's probably also one that gets relatively little public support because of a feeling that pet owners who don't budget for their animals' treatment are just trying to get something for nothing.

VII. Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation
Again crucial. Most rescues are NOT putting down lots of healthy animals, but they may be putting down animals who could be saved if more funds were available for treatment.

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement
Could do better. Most people have only the vaguest idea what the RSPCA does in terms of rehoming and are extremely confused about the difference between us and the PDSA.

IX. Volunteers
See above. The RSPCA and Cats Protection are both large welfare organisations whose rehoming work is very largely done by volunteer effort.

X. Proactive Redemptions
Chipping! There's also a huge public education issue about how to go about searching for a lost cat and the new problem of injured cats being taken long distances from the place where they were found when veterinary treatment is needed late at night when only a few emergency vet centres are open.

XI. A Compassionate Director
One would hope all shelter directors would be compassionate.

Again, the heavy involvement of volunteers (and low pay for dog pound workers) means that no-one is involved in rehoming who isn't doing it for the animals rather than simply as a local government job.

A caveat: it is possible to lean too far in the opposite direction. For some animals there may be worse things than being put down if they are very distressed by being held in kennels and no foster home is available.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cat and dog toys

Would anyone be willing to donate some cat or dog toys to improve the environment of our rescue cats and dogs while they're waiting to be rehomed? Toys need to be ones which can safely be used unattended (e.g. tough dog toys like the Kong or cat scratching posts/platforms) without anything that could be caught round an animal's neck or swallowed. 

Please email if you can donate anything suitable.

Many thanks

Border Collie Year Plates - collectors' item

Danbury Mint Border Collie Year Plates
UPDATE: Now Sold

These were generously donated to us by the sister of a border collie enthusiast who died recently. The set of plates featuring border collies through the seasons is complete except that September is missing.

There are three additional non-set plates also featuring border collies.

We're asking £10 per plate (£15 each  for the three older non-series ones) as Danbury plates are £29.95 new, and these are a limited edition. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anyone out there with a particular interest in films?

We're looking for a volunteer to revitalise the music and videos section of our charity shop. We sell VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and vinyl and would like to make a more appealing display that also takes up less of the shop floorspace so we can accommodate more sales items.

If you're interested, please drop in at 61 Burleigh Street any time between 10 am and 5 pm Monday-Saturday.

Britain's Unwanted Pets - Panorama this evening

For anyone who missed it, the program's still available via the BBC iPlayer.

Initial thoughts:

We urgently need the kind of knowledgeable activity to improve rehoming of difficult dogs that exists in the US:

"Though the public believes that dogfighting is the number-one problem facing pit bulls, a 2005 roundtable discussion among rescuers, breeders, and shelters concluded that the greatest challenge is overbreeding, Reynolds said. To combat this trend, BAD RAP works with responsible breeders, encourages breeders to “slow down,” and conducts outreach in communities where pit bulls are the favored pet. Lack of ethnic diversity in animal welfare agencies has historically translated into a dearth of outreach to non-white dog owners, said Reynolds, but her group aims to change that.
Through a program called “Pit Fix,” owners can take advantage of free spay/neuter surgeries for pit bulls at the East Bay SPCA. BAD RAP also offers free vaccination fairs in neighborhoods with high concentrations of pit bulls; owners who attend these events receive free leashes, collars, advice, and the chance to sign up for free spay/neuter surgeries as well.
The programs “create an opening for discussion,” Reynolds said, and they produce results: Last year, 607 pit bulls were sterilized for free in Alameda County, and BAD RAP’s free training classes (which accept dog-aggressive pits) have received an “overwhelming response.”
What can be done for the much larger and potentially dangerous pit bull ought to be possible for the Staffordshire, but Battersea can't just release dogs they know are potential fighters to inexperienced adopters and let them get on with it.

The problem isn't a straightforward one of "over-population" as Staffordshire puppies are in demand (the program confirmed my own impressions of amounts of money which can be involved). I'm not sure it's even as simple and straightforward as irresponsible owners getting fed up with once their dog's out of the cute puppy stage because lots of the pups actually do stay with their owners and are well-loved and looked after (although they may be a regular expense to veterinary charities). Owners living close to the breadline and in cramped accommodation are more likely to hit difficulties that mean they have to give up their dogs. If we could only nudge a percentage of the people who buy staffordshire puppies into considering adoption and give them the backup needed to make it a success we would be part of the way towards a solution.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Big Thank-You to Shirley Community Nursery & Primary School

Just opened the post at our animal clinic and found a cheque for £203.42 from the Shirley Community School. The children raised it all themselves by selling cakes and biscuits and organising games and competitions, including a production of Oliver Twist.