Friday, October 11, 2013

RSPCA rehoming?

Our inspector's request for us to crank up the numbers of rabbits we foster and rehome has provoked some soul-searching among the rehoming team. 

On the one hand, there's the desperate need to take in rabbits from truly dreadful conditions where they're likely to produce yet more babies who will have miserable lives.

On the other, there's the concern that we'll at best end up creating "sanctuary" conditions where they'll be in better circumstances but we won't be able to move them on and eventually we'll still have no space for new requests. 

At worst we could end up creating the kind of sanctuary that's a welfare problem in its own right if we're not strict with ourselves about taking on no more animals than foster carers can cope with and not skimping on the specifications for their housing.

Keeping rabbits correctly is not cheap; a pair will need living accommodation that will cost at least £500 unless you are a really good carpenter and they'll need yearly vaccinations costing £40 each. They also need good quality hay and green vegetables daily. 

This is possibly a reason why so many people buy rabbits from pet shops rather than adopting—because the shop will let them buy when we would refuse because the proposed accommodation is not adequate.

In one form or another similar dilemmas impinge on the rest of our rehoming:

  • Rats are extremely prone to benign tumours as they age; if we rehome to someone who clearly does not have the funds for vet treatment, are we condemning them to a long-drawn-out period of discomfort with large lumps of flesh that may ulcerate or become infected.
  • All small animals will need cages that will cost far more than the monetary value of the animals themselves (which is why some pet shops offer a "free" hamster with purchase of a cage).
  • When we rehome animals with ongoing medical issues, like Lulu (pictured above), are we taking a risk that the adopter may not keep up their treatment?
We have to be practical about rehoming as fast as we can so that other animals can be taken in, but there is always some degree of risk, and that's partly why we encourage adopters to come back to us if they find they're not coping. It's also why we visit homes before adoptions so that we can assure ourselves as much as possible that the prospective owners have thought through the practical and financial aspects of owning animals, and why we do reject some people if their facilities aren't suitable. We try to operate a "buddy" system for foster homes so that no-one feels under pressure to take more than they can cope with and animals can be dispersed to other foster homes to spread the load if needed.

We need to recruit more temporary foster homes and home-visitors for the pre-homing checks. We particularly need visitors to cover the area round Ely and the northern part of our branch area. If you might be able to help, please email

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