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: