Friday, October 28, 2011

What a week!

We put out an appeal for help raising the final part of the £10,000 needed to safeguard the future of our animal clinic on Saturday. 

George the three-legged cat is looking for a  home
Thanks to the combined efforts of the Cambridge Evening News and Radio Cambridgeshire and the generosity of the public we've more than met our target, meaning we won't default on the agreed payment deadlines. Especial thanks to John Grieve and the staff of Cambridge Veterinary Group, who donated £3,000.

This doesn't mean our problems are over. We're now in a position to be certain we can pay the flat rate basic fee to keep the clinic open and that we will be able to carry on paying it in the next financial year.

We still have the awful dilemma of what we can do to help animals whose owners can't manage even the subsidised rates our clinic charges and animals who need emergency treatment outside normal hours but are not registered.

Fees for operations are paid direct to the University Vet School, who provide hospitalisation facilities for us. Charges are roughly a third of what the owner would have to pay at a private vet, but this may still represent an awful lot of money for someone who is on benefits of £70-odd pounds a week or already in debt.

Unless we can increase our fundraising really substantially, we dare not offer to provide extra help to cover the cost of operations because we can't justify putting the future of the clinic in doubt.

Our agreement with the Vet School means that registered animals can be seen outside normal working hours in an emergency, but animals who have never been to the clinic can't be seen and the only available treatment is at private vets. At the moment we will help in a real emergency that can't wait, but all we can do is to offer to cover the cost of a consultation — the owner must find the money to pay for first aid to stabilise the animal until they can go to the next clinic session. Again, we simply cannot do more than this, and we may have to say we can only cover part of the cost of a consult if fundraising dips again.

Many pet owners on low income seem terrifyingly unaware of how little help may be available if they can't afford to pay vet fees. Our clinic is the only one of its kind in the whole of Cambridgeshire, and the PDSA's arrangements with some private practices all require the owner to register before their pet becomes ill. Callers to our branch help line almost always say, "Can you tell me where to take him?" expecting that there will be free facilities in every town, and there just isn't. Getting this across to a frantic owner is incredibly stressful for the volunteers who run the helpline. Many vets will do their best to avoid putting down treatable animals, but at the end of the day they have to safeguard their businesses' viability or no-one's pets will get treatment.

I'm afraid no government is going to see pets' healthcare as something they are prepared to fund—if communities want their animal members to have treatment available they are going to have to organise and work to fundraise for it themselves.

This is why our shops are so vital, because the income they bring in is something we can increase by our own efforts. Please support them by using them when you shop for clothes; by donating saleable items and remembering to sign a gift aid form if you pay UK income tax.

We need more volunteers, to increase the rate at which we can process donated items and prepare them for sale, and to enable us to increase the shops' opening hours. If you might be able to help, please email or drop in at one of the shops for a chat with the manager.