Saturday, November 17, 2012

2 puppies; no money; possible broken leg

Call just now from a relation of someone who's bought two very young puppies and now suspects that one of them has a broken leg as the pup is crying and unwilling to put any weight on it. The actual owner of the pups is on benefits and doesn't even have enough funds for credit on a mobile phone to call me direct.

Dogs are very much more liable than cats to injure themselves by jumping on or off household furniture and unfortunately this kind of thing is a fairly common occurrence. I'm hoping that the leg is simply twisted or bruised and simple pain relief and rest will sort it out. If it really is broken then some kind of operation will almost certainly be needed, although the pup's age is in his favour since growing bones repair themselves much more easily than adult ones.

We may well end up taking in one or both of the pups for rehoming if the owner isn't able to contribute anything towards the cost of treatment because it just isn't fair for us to provide free treatment for owners who haven't made any effort to plan at all, but charge the responsible ones who register their animals and save up to cover the cost of treatment.

Update 10 pm

The owner still hasn't managed to get the puppy to the emergency vet because they don't have any transport or money for a taxi. The puppy seems to be resting reasonably comfortably although he's distressed when he tries to walk. The owner's going to keep trying to locate someone who may be willing to give them a lift.

Update 18th November

Puppy has been seen by a vet and has a probable hairline fracture. He's been prescribed pain relief and cage rest (to give the injury a chance to heal). Owner will have to take him to the RSPCA clinic on Tuesday for a follow-up examination, but fortunately it doesn't look as though a repair operation's going to be needed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Congratulations to our Newmarket shop team!

Congratulations to our Newmarket shop team for achieving a fantastic 40% of gift aid sales in October. This represents a lot of hard work behind the scenes as gift aid tax relief can only be claimed if there is a paper trail from donated items to the funds they raise.

This means that our sales team must ensure each donated item is labelled with a bar code sticker matching the sticker placed on the gift aid form completed by the donor. When an item is sold this bar code is scanned at the till and the sale amount credited to the donor number. The till uploads sales details overnight and the computer system keeps a running total of the amount raised by each donor. Periodically I print and mail out the "donor letters" thanking donors and letting them know how much they have raised by their generosity. Once donors have been notified we are able to put in a claim to HMRC for the tax equivalent of the funds raised; meaning that we reclaim 25p for every pound of sales. 

That means an extra £500 raised by Newmarket in October—enough to cover the cost of neutering fifteen cats, chipping 70 dogs or providing 150 low-cost consultations at our animal clinic.

Shops, and the volunteers who keep them running, are the life-blood of the branch because they are our only source of regular income which can be increased by working harder.

We need more volunteers to help keep them in action. If you might be able to help, please drop in for a chat or email We also need donations of saleable items and volunteers to help collect donations from people who aren't able to bring them in to the shops.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Revised national policy on branches

The RSPCA Council have updated the policy on the role of branches and it's worth reading the document if you might be considering the possibility of joining your local branch committee or volunteering with your local branch as it provides a concise summary of what we're all about. The image below is a bit small - so you may find it easier to read the PDF version.

In fact it's not enormously different from the branch Minimum Animal Welfare Standards which were agreed ten years ago: basically the priorities are to provide help (welfare neutering, microchipping, treatments) to prevent cruelty or neglect and to care for and rehome animals taken in when prevention fails.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

RSPCA week isn't a success

To be honest it wasn't a big surprise that my inbox today contained a message from our HQ saying that Tesco are reducing the number of days during RSPCA week 2013 when we can collect donations outside their stores. 

RSPCA week has been incredibly valuable to branches over the years, but we've never been able to realise its full potential because we simply don't have enough volunteers to cover all the major Tesco stores over 7 days. Reasonably-enough Tesco now say it's not fair to say no to other charities who might be able to make full use of the opportunity.

The days we can collect will now be Friday May 3rd, Saturday 4th and Sunday May 5th.

If we make a real effort to achieve total cover in 2013, Tesco may  revise their decision and offer us the full 7 days again in 2014. If we don't ... we could well see our collection permission reduced even further.

Animal welfare is in crisis. Our inspectors are needed as never before and all the while there is the ticking time-bomb of people who have animals and won't be able to cope if they get ill, or injured, or if the price of feed goes up. 

Whether you think the RSPCA is too timid in its campaigns — or much too "activist" — please make a resolution to help us provide the basic welfare services that make animals' lives tolerable.

It would be an enormous help if you could spare just two hours to collect — either during 3-5 May 2013 or during 15-17 February 2013 when we have permission to collect at Pets at Home.

Sheep for live export at Ramsgate port
If you can help collect, please email 

We also need more volunteers to help at our three charity shops and to set up a fundraising group.

Please also consider joining the RSPCA. The more members we have, more likely it is that government will pay attention when we lobby for better treatment of animals. More members also means a larger pool of talent to draw on for local branch committees and stronger democracy.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Harry doesn't have cystitis: he's just looking for a home 
Feline cystitis, or to give it its more correct name: Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is frightening to owners because any unexplained bleeding is scary. 

It can ultimately be a killer in male cats because there is a risk that it will cause what's known as a blocked bladder — when the cat cannot pass urine at all and strains so much that he may rupture his bladder or build up urinary toxins to a point which causes death.

In female cats urinary tract disease is less of an emergency but it should still be treated by a vet as soon as possible. 

In both sexes, low-level disease may cause the cat apparently to lose house-training (because he or she comes to associate the litter box with the pain of unproductive straining to pass urine) and cause the owner react harshly and so increase the stress which makes the condition worse. 

Today's early morning call from an owner whose female cat was passing small trickles of urine stained with blood was fairly non-worrying (although it would have been better all round if she'd kept up her registration so that she could have seen our out of hours vets today). As she wasn't acutely ill and being female was at low risk of blocking, she could reasonably be asked to wait until our normal clinic session on Tuesday morning. 

If she'd been a male with a blockage the story might have been much less happy. Surgical un-blocking can cost up to £600 at a private vet and by the time an owner realises there is a problem a male cat can be in terrible pain, to the point that waiting until our next clinic session would be inhumane.

Heart disease to round off a stressful weekend

This caller's cat had been missing for several days and returned on Saturday evening, apparently distressed and panting with her mouth open. She had been to the local private vet in the past, but her owners had no idea that they would be closed over the weekend and that the out of hours cover would cost £100 just for the consultation fee. 

They decided to wait until Monday when their normal vet would be available, but by mid-afternoon on Sunday the cat was so visibly distressed that they called the branch helpline in desperation. 

I agreed that we would cover the consultation fee so she could have first aid today and they would bring the cat to our Tuesday clinic to register her (with a silent mental reservation on my part that she might not live until then).

Even responsible owners who get their pets vaccinated and chipped and provide routine vet care don't always recognise just how expensive it may be if an emergency happens at an inconvenient time or if a condition doesn't respond to initial treatment and requires several visits to the surgery.

Considering that the recent PDSA survey showed that a third of pet owners aged between 18 and 24 would give their pets up if the cost became too great there's a time bomb of unwanted animals in the making.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


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Had a call to our helpline yesterday which left me feeling exasperated and upset in more or less equal measure. The person concerned clearly did love animals but also had some issues which meant she wasn't really capable of looking after them properly. She'd "rescued" three rabbits from someone else who'd been threatening to kill them by wringing their necks, but couldn't afford the cost of vaccination at her local vet and didn't have transport to get them to our clinic from the remote village where she lived.One rabbit had already had to be put to sleep because he had myxomatosis and now a second was showing the same symptoms but the vet wouldn't see her because the owner hadn't yet paid off the debt for treating the first one. 

In any case, because it was Saturday afternoon, the surgery she could reach on foot was closed and being covered from their other one in Cambridge which would have cost her £100 for an out of hours consultation and in any case wasn't accessible because she had no transport and no money for a taxi.

Our fantastic inspector offered to go out to the rabbit as she clearly needed to be put to sleep to end her suffering but the owner called back about twenty minutes later to say the bunny had died.

I've offered to cover the cost of getting the surviving rabbit vaccinated at the private vet, which is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted but will give him a chance if he's not already incubating the disease.

We can't offer to pay off her existing debt, both because we can't afford it and because it would risk opening the floodgates to everyone who hasn't budgeted for their pets becoming sick.

The problem of vet treatment costs isn't straightforward. The only way we could provide anything like an NHS for animals would be if virtually every animal lover in England and Wales joined us and helped raise funds to do it. We can't simply wash our hands of it and say it's the owner's responsibility and that's it because there are too many people with animal who really are not capable of making the hard decisions needed to ensure they only have the pets they can afford to care for properly. On top of that there are the good owners who lose their jobs, have accidents themselves or take on uninsurable animals with existing medical problems.