Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What if there was no RSPCA?

This post was sparked off by an exchange between Tony Woodley, one of our inspectors and a member of group that campaigns for better welfare protection for equines. It tries to put a third perspective: that of an RSPCA branch volunteer.

First of all a couple of misconceptions about the way the RSPCA works:

 — we do take in stray animals but only if there is a welfare reason. A fit cat who wanders into someone's garden doesn't need to be "rescued" whereas one who's been hit by a car and injured does. The National RSPCA has a system to arrange payment for initial first aid and most branches will do their level best to cover the cost of continued treatment and rehoming. If the person finding an injured animal can't transport it direct to a vet then the National RSPCA will send out an inspector but this inevitably takes more time. 

— Local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide a collection service for stray dogs (the fact that they often don't is one of the reasons why the RSPCA doesn't see much point in spending lots of effort trying to push for other welfare services to be made the responsibility of local councils).

—The RSPCA National Control Centre operates 24/7 but it is hammered in the summer months and at weekends because those are the periods when members of the public are out and about and available to notice welfare problems and also when young animals are most at risk. The reason why the police can often get through more quickly than ordinary members of the public is not normally because they have the local inspector's private number but because there's a dedicated number for them to use to contact the Control Centre (provided they remember they have it!).

If there were just two things that would help to reduce the number of complaints about the RSPCA the first might be reducing the length of time callers to the NCC are held in a queue, but that could only be done by increasing the numbers of staff (and therefore diverting funds away from frontline activities). The second would be the ability to take in unlimited numbers of unwanted animals and that would require a stupendous increase in resources unless we were willing to return to the bad old days of killing animals to make space to take in more.

The Internet may eventually help with the phone queue issue if more people can be persuaded to report non-emergencies (i.e. situations that won't get significantly worse with a delay of 24 hours) via the National website rather than telephoning. I don't see any way we could operate a completely open-access system for animals who have become unwanted unless we can somehow persuade owners to be more rational about acquiring them in the first place. 

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