Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Volunteers' Meeting this Thursday

Next informal volunteers' meeting is this Thursday, 7.30-9.30pm at our charity shop, 61 Burleigh St. All welcome.

There's free parking after 7pm at the Adam and Eve St. car park just behind Burleigh St.

Monday, September 13, 2010

So... why isn't the whole of England and Wales a no-kill community?

The ten "No-Kill Equation" recommendations     MAWS
1. Feral Cat TNR Program 
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter                3. Welfare Neutering
3. Rescue Groups 
4. Foster Care 
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program                    2. Rehoming
6. Pet Retention                                                 4.  Assistance with Veterinary Treatment 
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation              1. Animals accepted into branch care
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement 
9. Volunteers

Compare these with the Minimum Animal Welfare Standards and you'll recognise that their core principles are identical. (MAWS doesn't specifically mention neutering feral cats, but this is RSPCA policy). Items 3, 4, and 9 are already inherent in the voluntary nature of RSPCA branches.

To an extent the answer is that England and Wales do manage to save a higher proportion of stray and unwanted animals than some other similar countries. In the 1990s we were enthusiastic that this proportion could be increased quite fast, but over the two decades since then we have been barely holding on to the gains made then.

Item 8 is perhaps the key. 

We've not succeeded in attracting the amount of sustained community support needed to maintain ongoing services at the necessary high level of activity. So long as people and companion animals live together there will always be situations where animals need to be rehomed—just as there will never be a situation where we all have such perfect health that the NHS isn't needed. It's probably inevitable that this work is less immediately attractive than crusades aimed at abuses that can apparently be ended once and for all and we have to solve the problem of "selling ourselves" to gain more support from a wider active community. 

I wonder whether there's not also a degree of difficulty caused by the fact that this is a campaign that doesn't really have any "enemy" most of the time. Some of the animals we rehome have been intentionally abused, but the majority have come to grief because of accidents, poverty or inadequacy, not deliberate cruelty.

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).