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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

RSPCA access to Police National Computer

News stories about RSPCA access to the PNC earlier this year implied that inspectors might be trawling computer records looking for sensitive information in order to harrass people. 

It was originally an exclusive by online computing journal, The Register—I suspect as a result of information supplied by the pseudonymous Richard Martin who made a large number of Freedom of Information requests about provision of data to the RSPCA before the police got fed up and told him any more would be treated as "vexatious".

The Register, had enough computer savvy to write FOI requests in a form that would get some answers and, following their initial scoop, they obviously hoped a bit more digging would produce something really exciting.

Their reporter's application reads:
"Dear The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,

I wish to see some examples of information disclosed to the RSPCA
under the SLA you have with them.

Specifically I wish to see details of the first ten disclosures to
the RSPCA of information from the PNC. Obviously this will need to
be redacted to remove specific personal information and any
specific information likely to prejudice an ongoing case. But I
wish to know the detailed nature of the kind data in practice sent
to the RSPCA. For information that is redacted please ensure that
the description of the information (e.g. "previous address",
"occupation") remains. Please disclose where possible the actual
emails (suitably redacted) to and from the RSPCA in relation to
these ten cases.

Yours faithfully,

Ken Tindell"
If you compare this with the earlier applications you can see why it got a response; Ken Tindell is clearly rational and non-obsessive; he's after another exclusive, but he's not going to go on and on.

Sadly, the result is not news; RSPCA access to the PNC is done in exactly the way ACPO said it was back in August. There's no trawling; simply a notification from the RSPCA when they are about to prosecute someone and a request for creation of a record in the PNC with disclosure of previous offences. Precisely because this is not news it will never get the same publicity as the first round of media claims.