Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dog foster home needed

One of our clinic clients needs to find a temporary or permanent home for a four year old Labrador dog due to health problems (partly hers and partly the dog's).

The dog is well-behaved, friendly and placid, but has begun having occasional fits - so far only 1-2 per month, which the clinic vets have advised should be monitored, but not treated by medication at this stage. When he has a fit he loses control of his bladder and threshes about in a way which means he would be a risk to small children because of his size and strength. For the same reason he probably ought not to be left alone with other dogs. He's never shown any signs of aggression other than reflex snapping when actually having a fit.

Ideally he needs to be placed in a home where he can be restricted to areas where the seizures won't do any damage (to him or to furniture and carpets) and where he can be left to recover quietly in his own time. 

If you might be able to help, please email

Friday, January 28, 2011


If you've been following the discussions about "Big Society" and the rôle of charities, you may be aware of Parliament's Public Affairs Select Committee investigation on the Funding of the Voluntary Sector. The minutes of evidence are rather long, but I was very interested by the asides about the distinction between "campaigning" and "service" charities, with some of the questioners being quite hostile to the idea that charities should try to bring about changes in the law or in the way people behave.

The Chief Executive of Marie Curie Cancer care rebutted the claim as follows:
"It seems to me that it’s a pretty fundamental principle that free organisations and free associations can campaign-that’s important. I think there needs to be a balance between campaigning and service provision, and often charities will use their experience of providing services to influence public policy. They will say, "Look, we realise that caring for people with cancer requires a different approach, and we’re going to campaign to ensure that different approach." There wouldn’t be a hospice movement if there hadn’t been both the provision of hospices by the charitable sector and also arguments on the need for more of them. It’s a combination that often takes place. Different charities will make different decisions about the balance of that. I think the best charities combine the provision of direct services and the use of knowledge to influence policy. That’s the important principle I think."   
Fired by his example, I'm cross-posting from a piece I did a few months ago on our i-volunteer page about campaigning and animal charities.

Some animal protection organisations see their primary role as the direct provision of welfare services (for example rehoming animals), while others are primarily orientated towards campaigning, or education. A few combine the two, and this may cause them some problems.

On the one hand they may be accused of diverting funds intended for animal welfare services into "political" activity (with a small p). Or, on the other, of failing to tackle basic questions of how we ought to treat non-human animals in favour of "safe" options which are acceptable to the general population.

I think this idea that providing services and campaigning are somehow natural opposites is false and actively harmful. "Speaking out for animals" may be all very well, but it isn't likely to do them very much real good unless it's backed by knowledge (which animal welfare practitioners are more likely to possess than purely theoretical campaigners). It may do them actual harm if the campaigns are based on wrong, outdated or incomplete knowledge.

On the other hand if the practitioner sees recurring problems which could be solved by education or changes in the law, it makes no sense to say, proudly: "All our money is spent on direct provision of services."

So far as I'm aware, the RSPCA is unique in providing a free service which the State would have to spend money to replace if we collapsed. The PDSA provides services which effectively top up the benefits of very poor people who depend on pets for companionship, but there would be no statutory requirement for any kind of replacement. So long as anti-cruelty laws are on the statutes there would have to be at least a minimal amount of enforcement, even if many cases would simply be disregarded as not a priority. So, in a strange, back-to-front way we're almost the ideal "Big Society" organisation, raising our own funds to provide a better service than the state would do, but at the same time saving public money by funding work the state would have to do if we weren't there. The network of RSPCA branches was doing things locally nearly a century before the Big Society Network was thought of. "Mending our communities" may be a little too ambitious, but we are providing local services for low-income families with pets. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charity Shop opening date February 14th

We now have a date for the opening of our new charity shop in Newmarket. 

10A Market street will open for business on Monday 14th February. This will give the volunteers a chance to practice with the new tills during the relatively quiet weekday period ready (I do hope) for a really busy Saturday.

There will be staff and volunteers in the shop working on setting up from 29th January onwards and they will be more than delighted to take in donations of items for sale. Market street itself is pedestrianised, so if you are dropping off donations by car it would be best to contact us first for directions to the access road at the back of the shops. Email or phone 07766 502 032 (note that the location on Google maps correctly identifies the access road, but shows the back of the wrong shop.

If you are interested in volunteering in the shop, please download and complete our shops volunteers form and bring it with you. We need to keep a record of who to contact in an emergency and whether our volunteers have any health conditions which mean we need to make adjustments to their work patterns (for example avoiding standing for long periods).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Newmarket Shop will be opening in February

The shopfitters are due to hand the refurbished shop at 10A Market Street over to us tomorrow, although there are some minor jobs still to do. We then have to put up the rails for clothes, install the new Gift Aid tills, and stock the shop.

From Wednesday onwards there will be staff and volunteers in the shop for most of the day and they will be delighted to take in donated items. Unfortunately the phoneline is not yet connected, so it's not yet possible to phone ahead. Market St is pedestrianised, but if you want to drop off donations by car there is access to the rear of the shop from the service road off the A142.

We need more volunteer, for a variety of tasks, not just staffing the till.

We need people to help with sorting and cleaning donated items (a good wash in soapy water can vastly improve the saleability of ornaments and bric-à-brac). Also, people to fill shelves, put clothes out on the  rails and help with moving larger items.

We also need people who would be willing to distribute leaflets and help with publicity to ensure that the opening is a success as first impressions are so important.

Car drivers willing to collect donations from elderly or non-driving donors would be a great help.

If you would be interested in volunteering, please email

Thank you to everyone who donated items to our shop yesterday

Just a quick thank you to everyone who dropped in donations to our Burleigh Street shop yesterday.

We're now opening Sundays 11 am — 4 pm, and so far it looks as though sales aren't huge, but it's a more convenient day for many people who want to donate items for sale.