Thursday, August 8, 2013

Enquiry into the RSPCA? - Part 2: Companion animals

Our pets - the animals who share our homes.

Rehoming and euthanasia

The RSPCA gives priority to animals taken in as a result of cruelty investigations or found as injured strays and it puts no time-limit on the length of time rehomeable animals may be cared for until they can be placed in a new permanent home. This means that centres are always full and need to be supplemented by paying for space in private boarding kennels and catteries or placing animals with volunteer foster carers.

In 2012 (most recent year for which figures are available) the RSPCA took in 18,355 dogs of which 11,356 were rehomed, and  6,817 were put to sleep because they were incurably ill, dangerous or belonged to breeds which it is illegal to rehome.  182 potentially rehomeable dogs were put to sleep.

The RSPCA does not normally taken in stray dogs as these are legally the responsibility of the Local Authority. However few Local Authorities provide a 24 hour 7 day per week collection service for stray dogs or pay for treatment of injured dogs whose owner is not known.

It is debatable whether the RSPCA can legally spend funds to provide a service which should by statute be the responsibility of a public body. It would probably not be treated as misuse of charity funds if the RSPCA were to collect stray dogs at times when no LA collection service is provided or if it were to pay for treatment of injured dogs where no LA funding is available. However this would be a significant drain on the Society's resources, even if activity by the Central Society was restricted to collecting dogs and providing funds for initial first aid treatment. 

If the process for continuing treatment of injured stray dogs was dealt with in the same way as the current handling of injured stray cats it would mean imposing a considerable strain on the local branches, many of whom are already struggling to remain solvent.

In 2012 the RSPCA took in 43,621 cats of which 30,202 were rehomed (or released after neutering if feral) and 12,607 were put to sleep because they were untreatably ill or injured. 812 potentially rehomeable cats were put to sleep.

In 2013 the Society began a revolutionary initiative to locate rehoming centres within Pets at Home stores in order to encourage adoption of rescue animals instead of commercial purchase. Selling animals is a very small element of the revenue of a pet store so there is excellent potential to drive down over-breeding while maintaining the stores' income from pet food and accessories.

What an enquiry might comment

The RSPCA have very low rates of euthanasia of healthy domestic pets—better than most comparable SPCAs in other countries. These rates could very probably be reduced to zero by spending relatively small amounts of money to increase available accommodation in private boarding kennels.

Vociferous claims that the RSPCA has extremely high euthanasia rates probably contribute to inefficiencies in transferring animals between locations in order to speed up rehoming. Each branch knows that it is saving every animal it possibly can and the emotional investment in those animals who have already been admitted makes it difficult to "let go" and send them elsewhere without guarantees that the centre receiving them will be equally dedicated.

Some newly recruited branch volunteers and national staff may be unsure about branch obligations to accept inspectors' intake other than prosecution cases and be unaware that by refusing animals they might be forcing an inspector to arrange euthanasia.

One option might be for the Central RSPCA to pay for short-term boarding to provide a breathing space in which options for transfer to other branches or to National rehoming centres could be investigated. A potential problem is that this would inevitably be misrepresented as the RSPCA having a policy of killing animals after 3 days (or whatever the breathing space was) even if these animals were always successfully transferred to other accommodation.

Sick and injured strays

The RSPCA is unique among animal charities in England and Wales in having a blanket agreement with private vets to pay £60 towards first aid for sick or injured animals whose owners cannot be traced.

Dogs are not normally included in this as the Local Authority is legally responsible for paying for immediate treatment of stray dogs but in practice the RSPCA will pay if it is impossible to contact the local council, a dog needs immediate treatment to prevent suffering and the veterinary practice absolutely refuses to provide treatment unless payment is guaranteed. This £60 is paid by the Central RSPCA and local branches will then cover the cost of further treatment if they are able.

What an enquiry might comment

Many of the complaints about the RSPCA relate to not collecting/treating stray dogs and dissatisfaction that the £60 payment for initial first aid treatment is not larger. There might be scope for a national arrangement with local authorities for the RSPCA to take over part of their statutory responsibility for stray dogs in return for payment as the RSPCA already has a 24 hour control centre taking calls from the public and personnel available during the night to collect animals. As the Society is already over-stretched this would only be possible if the arrangement provided full cost recovery to enable extra people to be employed.

Increasing the veterinary treatment payment per animal by £100 would be likely to cost in the order of £4 million and would only become possible if the Society significantly increased its income.

It is very unfortunate that the RSPCA has recently become the target of political campaigns which aim to force the RSPCA to change its campaigning policies by hitting the funding of its practical welfare work.

No comments:

Post a Comment