Monday, 9 January 2017

The year that was 2016! Our Annual Review

Our Annual Review 2016

Looking back, 2016 has been a big year for us at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch, with new species being admitted and rehoming figures reaching an all time high the past 12 months have been a huge success (our accountant might not see it that way mind you!). As a small branch of the RSPCA (and a separately registered charity) with just three members of animal staff (1 full time and 2 part time) we have to work extra hard to keep up with the larger branches. We don’t have our own animal centre and instead rely heavily on volunteer foster homes and private boarding facilities to care for our animals, and yet in 2016 we achieved results equivalent to branches with animal centres.
Thanks to the love and care from our animal foster carers and the social interaction from our volunteer cat cuddlers our fluffy felines have been flying out the door and we’ve seen the success rate of rabbit pairings rise dramatically thanks to our new home bonding scheme. By sending rabbits out on a temporary fostering basis it has given more people the confidence to try and find a buddy for their bunnies, no bunny should be lonely after all! 
Our small but perfectly formed army of cat cuddlers did us proud last year! Mr P was rehomed in record time, snapped up within minutes of being listed online.

Potential rabbit adopters are provided with the loan of equipment and clear guidance on how to sensitively and slowly pair bunnies in the home and as a result we’ve seen far fewer rabbits returned and many more happy rabbits!

Another successful change this year is the admission and rehabilitation of new species. At the start of 2016 we opened our doors to the beloved pet rat. In July an abandonment case put our new ratty care skills to the test. A total of 53 rats were found abandoned. Someone had clearly allowed things to get out of hand and decided to abandon them all when they could no longer cope. Branches across the region were asked to take in what they could so we admitted 11 to start with, followed by another 12 the week after. Our 23 rats quickly doubled in number as the females began to give birth and we soon found our office had turned into the ‘rat room’. Sadly a number of the rats were in a terrible condition but we managed to rehome the majority of the poor little things, including all 20 babies which were born in our care. We now just have one rat left from that case, Rowan, an elderly gentleman who has been suffering with on/off respiratory issues but thankfully he’s found himself a long term foster home so he isn’t too concerned about being overlooked!
One of our many rats now happily settled in their forever home! A huge thanks to all our volunteers who popped into our office to socialise, clean and feed our little ones!

Our excitement at accepting rats into the branch was soon over shadowed by the arrival of the reptiles in March. With only one other branch licensed to keep reptiles in the North there was a growing need for somewhere local to house those rescued by the inspectors. So we launched the Reptile Rehabilitation and Rehoming Project in conjunction with the National RSPCA. We have purpose built facilities in our mini adoption centre at Pets at Home in Stockpor, kindly funded by Support Adoption for Pets. National RSPCA staff who run the centre have received specialist training to care for a variety species including bearded dragons, snakes and geckos. Rehoming started off slowly but by December we saw interest in our scaley friends increase and Jafar the bearded dragon, one of our first residents, found himself a fantastic home after waiting patiently since April. In 2016 we are proud to have admitted 25 and rehomed 15, sadly 5 had to be put to sleep due to severe health problems caused by the neglect they had suffered.

Copper is one of our reptiles currently available for adoption, see them all on our website!

The start of 2016 also saw another big change for us; we had to find a new private boarding facility for our cats. In an ideal world all of our feline friends would be in foster homes but sadly we never have enough so renting out space in a private cattery is the next best thing. Not having onsite accommodation for our animals can be tricky, it means lots of driving around, messaging back and forth and it involves a great deal of trust, but in February we made the necessary move and thankfully our cats have settled in well. Not only that but this year is the first time we have not had to close due to cat flu so that has helped towards our record rehoming figures too. 

We also welcomed a new member of staff to our small but perfectly formed team this year, Paul our new Head of Retail. Since his appointment in late 2015 our charity shops have exceeded all expectations and our retail staff have really given us everything they’ve got to raise as much money as possible for the animals. We can’t thank them enough for their hard work and commitment throughout 2016.

Deborah taking the plunge!
In summer it was time for us to be big and brave and do our annual fundraising challenge event. This normally involves us throwing ourselves off a building or walking across something painful but this year we went for minimal effort, maximum bravery and organised a sponsored head shave (Susie, branch manager, Deborah, animal welfare coordinator pictured left and Susie’s long suffering husband Steve taking the lead!). This event saw us raise over £2,500 and 6 months later we have just enjoyed our first hair cut! It gets harder each year to come up with new and exciting ways to raise money for our animals so please get in touch if you have any wacky, daredevil stunts for us to do!

As we trawl through our end of year stats we inevitably think of the animals that have come and gone over the past 12 months, this year feels like one woeful tale after the next when it comes to rabbits; with so many coming into our care from deplorable circumstances it’s inevitable that we should have some sad endings but we have had some truly wonderful bunnies in our care too who have warmed our hearts. 

Poppet - one of our staff favourites in 2016!
It’s hard to pick favourites (and to remember all of them!) but our stand out stars of 2016 have to be Clementine; a giant black baby rabbit who was found stray and then turned out to be a boy! Poppet (pictured) who despite being the runt of the litter and spending more time at the vets than we care to remember, has made it to her 5 month birthday and is now up for adoption, and Bobby who hands down wins hero of the year. He was just 8 weeks old when he came to us in April after being attacked from head to toe by his parents who were all locked in a tiny, filthy hutch together and had already had another litter of babies after him. Thankfully they were spotted by a neighbour and we managed to get him out just in time. He’s now 9 months old and has spent the past 7 months being rehabilitated in our branch manager Susie’s house!

Kurt finally got his dream home in 2016
We’ve seen some amazing cats pass through our cattery gates in 2016 and we’ve had a couple of special appeals for homes which have all been a massive success, but one character stands out above the rest, our handsome hunk Kurt. Kurt came to us in May after being found stray with an injured tail. He had to have the end amputated but was otherwise a healthy and happy chap. He waited for a home for two months but had no interest despite being placid, cat friendly and a gentle giant but in July he started to drink excessively. After a range of blood and urine tests he was diagnosed with renal dysfunction. This had us all in tears at the time, thinking we’d never find a home for him as if no one was interested before, why would someone want him now on a special diet and a shortened life expectancy but thankfully a miracle happened; a lovely lady came forward and Kurt is now living the high life as an owned and much loved companion animal.

Towards the end of the year we teamed up with Cats Protection to trial a new approach to our animal welfare work. A team of staff and volunteers went door to door offering free neutering, vaccinations and microchipping to cats and dogs in two targeted areas identified by data as potentially benefitting from this kind of support. We had a great response, especially in microchipping dogs, which in April became a legal requirement. So we are looking at rolling the scheme out in other areas in 2017 with our friends from Cats Protection.  

So as we say goodbye to 2016 and take a deep sigh of relief as we finish the last adoption pack, we can at least feel some satisfaction that a record breaking 498 unwanted animals are now safely tucked up inside their forever homes, preparing for a new year of regular meals, clean bedding and a loving carer. And none of that would be possible without the kindness of strangers, thank you to the 498 people who have chosen to adopt rather than shop for animals in 2016 and to those supporters who continually surprise and motivate us with donations, words of encouragement and their time. From team RSPCA M&S and the 88 animals currently in our care, thank you for all you have done to make 2016 a year to remember. Roll on 2017!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Quietly fighting for survival: Bobby

Our latest guest blog post by our branch manager Susie Hughes:

Some of you may recall Bobby from our blog earlier in the year. He defied the odds to recover from one of the most horrific cases of ignorance and neglect we had seen in a while. Alas, since then more animals have come into the care of RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch that have equally distressed and dumbfounded us but all the while Bobby has been quietly fighting for survival all over again.

Bobby when he first came into our care with terrible injuries

When Bobby was well enough for rehoming we shared his story of recovery with you all, but little did we know his journey had only just begun. Bobby quickly disappeared from the adoption pages and commenced a 4 month period of uncertainty as he battled a liver infection.

We learnt that liver infections are more common in juvenile rabbits than most people know and because the liver regenerates most owners won't ever 'see' any symptoms in their baby bunny much more than drinking too much. But how many of us really know how much is too much? The juvenile bunny typically repairs themselves without any of us knowing there was ever a problem in the first instance, but in Bobby's case his water consumption was unmissable. Blood tests confirmed it was his liver function causing the problem so he began a long course of treatment.

Weeks went by and Bobby hit puberty with gusto. This meant he had the overwhelming urge to mark his territory (something normally we can stop with neutering!). It was not his fault, he had become a slave to his hormones but he could not be neutered due to the risk of the anaesthetic effecting his liver further and hampering his recovery. His water consumption  was upwards of half a litre a day and this hormonally charge mini-beast was unable to stop himself from peeing everywhere but in a litter tray. Months ensued of mopping and cursing and filling his home with as many litter trays as was humanly possible but it still did not deter him. It wasn't just me that became fed up with the mess, my own rabbits became fed up living alongside him being so offensive.  Normally tolerant of any lodgers, Reenie and Donk decided to fight back with their own wee wars, driving me to distraction! After 3 months of wading through wee in my house I was at breaking point and there was no sign of pending recovery.

Of course I couldn't give anyone else the burden of looking after him and we couldn't afford to board him where the bunnies are kept.  I had no choice but to continue but had by now lost all hope of him ever recovering. The exotic rabbit specialist vet, however, was certain Bobby had a positive future ahead of him and whilst he was growing and thriving in all other respects I confess to having deliberately stopped myself from forming an attachment with him. To be honest this wasn't hard because he was just so dirty! By now not a single wee or poo landed in a litter tray and my floor was ruined. Admittedly a small price to pay for saving a life, but I would have been a millionaire by now had I got shares in kitchen roll!

At the end of a long summer and when another blood test revealed no improvement in his liver I felt so disheartened. I just couldn't see any hope and began to fear for his future. And one day it popped out. "I love you Bobby". As soon as I had said it I caught my breath in shock. But he then did a massive wee on the floor and I went back to grumbling again!

What came of Bobby's frequent medicating actually surprised me. You would have thought he'd be opposed to being  picked up given the amount of injections and oral medication he had but quiet the opposite occurred.  Now don't get me wrong, he's evasive of capture, but once in your arms he is relaxed and easy to handle. This was in massive contrast to how he was as a baby, but who could blame him given how sore he must've been to the touch. Bobby had also grown in confidence, seemingly helped by his testosterone and he no longer was scared of people, the resident dog or other bunnies. The latter was my greatest source of happiness because I never thought he would be able to be paired with a companion after the horrific attacks he endured as a baby. But now I could see there was real hope that this lad would want a lady rabbit friend to explore and enjoy life with.

I went away for 2 weeks in October and so Bobby boarded at the vets (in the holiday  section). I returned to the news that his water consumption had begun to drop and over the following 2 weeks at home I continued with the daily routine of measuring how much he was drinking. After a month of being off medication and a decline in his drinking we repeated the blood test. Finally we had the results we had been waiting for: Bobby's liver function was stable, there was no more progression in the disease and he could be neutered! My joy was palpable!

Within 3 weeks of being neutered Bobby had stopped peeing everywhere and my rabbits had lessened their own wee retaliation. My little fighter, who had become part of the furniture, was finally ready for rehoming. So it is with a huge sense of relief, albeit tinged with a heavy heart, that we now search for a special home for this extraordinary bunny. He is without doubt one of the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch's greatest triumphs this year and after 6 months and roughly £460 of veterinary costs it is my wish this Christmas that he finds a home as a cherished house rabbit.

So why adopt Bobby? To give him the chance to blossom into the cheeky adventurer he is desperate to be. So he can wrap you round his paws to get extra veggies from you. To give a true survivor the outcome he deserves, and to save me from myself! But above all to support the work of the RSPCA M&S and enable us to help many more animals in desperate need like Bobby. 

Without your help, through adoption, donations and gifts for the animals, we could not continue to do what we do. Sadly there are many more animals like Bobby who need us. You can make a difference to his life and so many others and be reassured that we are there for them. 

Throughout December we will be sharing our animals' (past and present) wishes to Santa on Facebook & Twitter! Be sure to follow the hashtag #rspcasantawish and see if you can help make any of their wishes come true this Christmas!

If you would like to make a donation so we can help more rescued animals this festive period please TEXT WISH27 £1/2/3/4/5 or £10 to 70070
Alternatively, you can donate online via Just Giving

You can also see our animals Santa Wish Lists here!

Monday, 14 November 2016

News Round-Up: Autumn 2016 Issue 3

Breaking records & a late Baby Boom

Since our last news round-up in Spring we have continued to be extremely busy bees! From 1st April to 31st October we have rehomed 412 animals; unbelievably in October we actually smashed our record for monthly adoptions when we rehomed 68 animals! 

You may remember that earlier in the year we took in dozens of rats who had been abandoned in the street. At the time of writing we can report that only 1 rat is left looking for a forever home! We are so very grateful to all the adopters who came forward to give fresh starts to our special little critters.

Sadly, we have continued to see large numbers of cats & rabbits coming into our care via the National RSPCA inspectors. It seems that the seasonal peak of the ‘baby boom’ was late this year and took place in August-September time for reasons unknown! We’ve had many litters of kittens & rabbits from a myriad of circumstances but the story that sticks out for us is Anita the rabbit. 

Anita was found on a  market stall were she was being sold for £1 for meat.  A member of the public spotted her and couldn’t just walk by, she paid £2 and brought Anita home. Not long afterwards the lady found she had a litter of babies to deal with as Anita must have been heavily pregnant. She contacted the National RSPCA who stepped in to assist and bought the bunny family to us. Thankfully, Anita and her babies are now happy, healthy and ready for adoption! 

At the moment we are averaging 40 rabbits in our care per month (normally we have 20-25) with demand continuing, due to amongst other factors, some local branches in the region being closed to rabbits. We hope our adoption success continues so we can help as many rabbits as possible.

Talking shop

Didsbury Shop Manager Tom Hammersley shares his Summer of fun fundraising for the animals.

What a summer it’s been! From sales to donations, the support from our customers has been absolutely incredible and I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to all of you for contributing to the rehabilitation and rehoming of over 340 animals through 2016 so far. We’ve been given many wonderful, exciting and downright bizarre donations, and I’d like to list some of my personal favourites:

« A Charles Darwin book published in the late 1800s (£120)

« A Planet of the Apes audiobook on vinyl (£5)

« 30+ Troll dolls! (£2.99 - £10 each)

« A collectable Hendricks gin tea set (£70)

« Crazy Cat Lady action figure (£10)

« A strand of Elvis Presley’s hair! Now, this is a tricky one. The certification says it’s legitimate, but this is very hard to prove without the use of police DNA testing equipment (and they won’t return my e-mails). So keep your eyes peeled as we will be holding a silent auction for this item very soon.

People assume that, as well as support from customers, the success of the shop this year is down to mine and assistant manager Richard’s amazing management skills, and in many ways they are absolutely correct. However, I can not understate what an enormous contribution our dedicated, hard-working volunteers make to the running of the RSPCA Didsbury shop. Give ‘em a high five next time you’re in.

What’s The Itch?

Just like us, many of the animals that come into our care suffer from allergies or sensitivities which sadly massively increases their time waiting for a forever home. Many people don’t want the hassle of sourcing the special diets or the extra costs which are sometimes involved so pass up the offer of meeting our ‘special needs’ cats. These cats are just as adorable, affectionate and deserving as the other cats in our care, and just as healthy if kept on the right diet, but it is a struggle to rehome them.

The most common complaints are food and flea allergies, and in Camille’s case it’s both. Camille came into our care at the start of July after being found stray and bald with no sign of an owner. Her bald back and bum were classic signs of flea dermatitis which is when a cat is left with a bad flea infestation so becomes allergic to fleas and loses the hair on the lower part of the body. She was also red and balding on her face and around her eyes which is often linked to food allergies; sadly allergy testing isn’t very clear in cats so rather than waste precious resources we decided to eliminate different allergens from her diet to see what worked for her. 

Camille at the point of rescue

We quickly discovered what suited Camille; monthly prescription flea treatments (which we recommend for all cats) along with a high meat content diet without all the added bulk of wheat and grain that is added to most commercial pet foods. Such a simple remedy considering the terrible state she was in when we found her. We order her food online and it costs us 90p a day, not a big ask when most people pay 60p a day for 2 sachets of Felix plus whatever the accompanying dry food costs. Camille is now healthy and hairy but after 4 months she is still waiting for someone to see past her slight affliction. 

Camille now!
So next time you’re looking to adopt a new furry friend we ask you to stop and think about the ones on a different diet;  we all have a food we’d rather avoid or a type of fur or dust that sets us off sneezing  but it shouldn’t keep us from having a home to call our own. If you can offer Camille a home please get in touch - give our lovely team a call on 0161 882 0680 option 4 or email

What can I do?

There are so many ways you can help us continue our work; check out our current appeals below if you would like to get involved!

« Rabbit toys & enrichment needed

Due to the large numbers of rabbits coming into our care we are desperately in need of chew toys to keep chompy mouths happy and healthy! You can buy a toy online via our Amazon Wish List   below or by dropping donations into any of our 4 charity shops listed on our website. DIY cardboard tubes stuffed with hay are also very welcome! 

« Ladies clothing needed

Our charity shops fund the vast majority of our work and we can’t help animals without a good supply of stock to sell. Ladies clothing is the most popular, so if you are having a clear out ready for Winter please consider donating to us. Shop locations and opening times here.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all our supporters this year and if you are reading our blog for the first time we hope you too will support Team RSPCA M&S in 2017 and beyond!