Sunday, 13 April 2014

Marathon Effort

Since a child I've been in awe of the participants of the London Marathon. Such an inspirational sight witnessing thousands of runners taking part in such a legendary sporting event. More than anything, I enjoy hearing the life stories of the runners, the motivations behind the running and, of course, the costumes!

Today is the first time since my last blog in February that I've had a weekend off. It's the reason for such a long delay in posting a new blog. It has, to say the least, been quite a difficult start to the year and the latest management accounts reveal the extent of our troubles. It isn't from poor management, it's from hard times with our shops, fewer donations and increasing 'direct charitable expnditure'. The latter being 'what we do': taking in and looking after the animals rescued by the inspectors. Few know that each branch is independent and has to raise its own funds to finance it's work. We, just like any other charity, are reliant on the generosity of the public to fund our work, but in times where working people can't even afford to feed themselves we  are a luxury few can afford.

It really is quite simple: income and expenditure need to match each other but currently there is a gulf between the two. It means that the less income we have, the more we have to dip into reserve funds. The more we dip in, the greater the risk of us not surviving beyond a year or two, at best.

So far this year we are on our 3rd cattery closure  due to cat flu. Not only does this effect us being able to help cats in need but it means increased veterinary costs, we are not generating interest in our cats (because we have so few for people to adopt) and we have a loss of income from adoption fees. In addition, we still have the outgoing, set costs of the cattery whether there is a cat in there or not. Not a great picture at all.

Then we have the ongoing troubles with am original group of 11 guinea pigs we admitted from a rescue where approximately 70 were kept in one home in shocking conditions. We are 5 weeks down the line and we are still battling with ill health amongst them all. The cost of treating them has escalated to well over £500 and, worst of all, we've lost 3 so far despite our best efforts. Since admission the stork has arrived and the 11 is now 18 and counting!
Tallulah gave birth to three babies this week but just two survived

The rabbit situation is probably the most stressful if I'm honest, because there is just no end to the apparent suffering of these poor animals and the sheer volumes being rescued is just ridiculous. There simply isn't enough spaces in the region to accommodate the vast numbers being rescued, despite ours and many other branch's best efforts. Most frustrating for us all is the number that come in as stray. I wonder whether people are aware that rabbits can be microchipped? But, just like cats and dogs and ferrets this is the only sure-fire way to reunite people with their missing animal. (For Rabbit Awareness Week in May we will be funding several activities offering free microchipping to all owned rabbits, please check our website for full information.)

I know this is quite a common report from me about the rabbits, but honestly, we have double what we can afford and something is going to have to give pretty soon because the funds simply aren't there to sustain this constant barrage of rescue rabbits. 

As for the dogs? I sat in a meeting this week involving lots of other branches in the region and everyone concurred that increasingly the dogs our inspectors rescue have had shocking starts to life and come with so many troubles that they require extensive rehabilitation and very special forever homes. This, inevitably, costs time and money; something that we commit to but means that each length of stay per dog is ever increasing and of course increasingly costly. Last year the cost to care for one dog, excluding staffing costs, was £428. We ask for adoption of £100, which means for each dog we take in we have to fundraise £328 to provide for their care. Taken over the year that's over £17,000 we need to raise just to take in 52 dogs (assuming we receive £100 adoption fee per dog we admit).
Rufus went to his new home yesterday. You can see how happy he is! He was rescued at 8 months old. He had a terrible start to life living:  never let out, along with 5 cats, and all toileting all over the house; he was frightened of his shadow and now he is king of his castle.

It soon becomes apparent just how easy it is get into financial struggles when you breakdown the cost of caring for such deserving and needy animals. But we have been exceedingly blessed this year with the offer of such fantastic homes for the dogs we've had in our care. They have all been troubled souls, all as result of their ill treatment, but they have so far gone on to find such special homes with people who have been willing to commit to a life-time of learning, upheaval and compromise.

Adopting a rescue dog is without doubt a life-style choice and one that is so utterly rewarding that it is no wonder to me why people do it time and time again. But it is also exhausting, it can push you to your limits and find yourself longing for a lie-in, a day off or a holiday! It is rescue dog adopters who I feel deserve the recognition and appreciation; they are a unique and dedicated species that make the difference between life and death to so very many animals.

As I watch the marathon runners exhaust themselves round London I think of the dog adopters who commit themselves to our victims of abuse, neglect and throw-away society. They give meaning to our work, provide us with hope and above all give a life-time of love to animals that need it as much, if not more, than any other. I shall watch the marathon today and think about you all.
Dana and Daniel were a multi-animal rescue from terrible conditions. Here they are pictured, yesterday, newly arrived in the forever home.

All animal adopters are, arguably, the most important aspect of animal rescue. Without you all we cannot keep admitting new animals. One day I hope the majority of people choose adopting a rescue animal the first port of call when looking for a new family member. For now, I'll settle with getting through the kitten season in one piece!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Family Ties

As this week draws to a close I've awoken to the realisation that there has been an over-riding theme to the last seven days. It's one that is all too familiar to us all, yet often so alien in the guises that it adopts that we don't necessarily see it for what it really is. 

The online Oxford Dictionary offers a variety of definitions for the concept of 'family', including: 'a group of related things' and 'a group of peoples from a common stock'. Of course both these nod towards a shared biology but they still hint at the notion of commonality, shared experiences and beliefs.

It was mid week when I heard a staff member describe our branch as a family. It was in response to a discussion we were having about the affect that discord at work has on us individually, but also as a branch. She said it affects us all so personally because we are a family. We all do what we do because we want to do best by the animals that need us.

I suppose seeing people take animals for granted the way in which we do and the desire to make a difference, no matter how small, creates not only a sense of belonging but also the belief that the animals are part of the family too.What invariably happens at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, whether something goes right or wrong, is that  we all feel the affect. But because we are a family we share and support one another through it. This becomes a unifying, if not edifying, experience a lot of the times and helps us to find the strength to carry on.

What makes our family function is the people that are a part of it. Each and everyone of them contribute to creating our branch and to keeping me sane. I want to share with you examples of some the things they have done this week so you can see just how much of a family we really are.

An email from cat cuddler Jacquie who recently adopted her second cat from us included this picture and the caption below.
Absolute nutter!  Over 35 years sharing home with cats and NEVER met one as crazy as this beauty (formerly named Xyla).”

This superb video was sent to me by our cat cuddler and foster carer Emma of a sheep in the grounds of where we house some of our animal. If you can't open the link the sheep is actually burping - it is the most peculiar thing!

We rely on photos to capture peoples' hearts.

Outstanding photos (voluntarily) taken by Nicola who works at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Pets at Home in Stockport. She brings her own camera to work so she capture the beauty of our animals. Phots maximise the chances of rehoming our animals. Nicola absolutely loves the animals and relishes telling me all about how they get on when they visit the centre for the day. I got a delightful text bestowing the virtues of Murray, plus this beautiful picture below of him nodding off having lap cuddles.

This morning foster carer Simon sent me this image with the caption 'Trying (and eventually failing) to hog the sofa'.
This little mite was one of four that were being kept in a rabbit hutch.

And on a day when I thought I might implode I got sent this great linkand the challenge to find which one might be a fake!

There are many more examples I could share, such as home visitor Alan bringing in his cat puppet in to see me and creating much amusement for me as he demonstrated how he managed to raise so much money during a collection we had last weekend. Or the email from home visitor Julie letting me know that when she left my third floor office she got lost twice on the way down, ending up in a cupboard each time! Or trustee Gilly who sent me the funniest message to cheer me up. She had taken her two year old daughter on a vet trip and her daughter told the (very experienced and highly qualified) vet that he was “doing really well at his job”. Brilliant!

These daily acts of kindness demonstrate just how special our team, family, friends - call them what you like - are all about. We are blessed to have each other. I am blessed to have such brilliant people in my life. People who share a united belief in what we are doing and a gritted determination to keep chipping away. This week I can see what we have so clearly. This is in doubt because of the challenges and loss we have faced. 

The biggest loss of all this week has ricocheted across the 'RS Family' (as I heard someone describe us). An incredibly dedicated, well loved and highly respected officer tragically and suddenly died this week. Her loss is profound, tragic and cruel. Our branch send our deepest sympathies and love to all her family, blood line or otherwise.

Let's not take for granted what and who we have in our lives, most of all the furry shaped folks that my dear friend Emma routinely calls 'the kids'.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Woodhead Pass

We've gone over the Pennines twice this week picking up animals rescued by inspectors that had nowhere else to go. I'm not sure quite what that says about available resources in the area, animal welfare matters in the area, or our ability, at RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, to be flexible and willing to help. 

In total we've taken in 7 cats, 6 rabbits and 1 dog. Yesterday Michelle and I didn't finish until 7pm and we were well and truly happy to be home. But is it not just all in a day's work for us?

This week has been the hardest for some time. It has been turbulent to say the least and full of anguish and anxiety that I couldn't possibly begin to share the details of, but it goes without saying it is all about the animals. By Thursday lunchtime we were well and truly battered and bruised emotionally. We had a rare moment of being in the same room as each other at the same time and for once we sat in silence as we ate our lunch. It's weeks like these that make you long for another job, to be made redundant because there is no more animal cruelty.

We can see that we have quite a journey ahead of ourselves with some of our new admissions. We can see we will have to cling to hope and a prayer if we are going to find homes for some of our animals. And we can see already just how 2014 is shaping up. I've never known such a stressful January, never seen so many kittens before and never had so many calls from people so destitute or ill that they cannot care for their animals anymore.

It's at times like these that I resent the people who acquire animals on a whim, or irresponsibly allow breeding. It's these people that very often prevent us from helping people and animals most in need because those people have created animal suffering, cruelty, neglect or abandonment. I've heard from callers all week long that there are simply no cat or dog spaces in any of the Greater Manchester animal sanctuaries; and I can well believe it.

We continue to prioritise the animals that our inspectorate rescue in the hope and belief that they are the neediest of society's animals. Let me introduce you to some of our new arrivals this week.

I don't know how well you can see Myrtle's claws in the pictures. In real life they betrayed the pitiful care and conditions she had been living in.

Myrtle was one of over 30 rabbits living in makeshift hutches on an allotment. It's hard to tell from the pictures but she is a British Giant. All the rabbits had been confined to hutches all their life. The majority overweight, including Myrtle, and had been used to breed from. We have concerns about some of the rabbit's sexual health (yes, they can contract syphilis) and some had been repeatedly breed from so much they have no discernible vulva.

Myrtle's claws were so overgrown that they protruded from her paws by nearly an inch. Stuck fast to the end of several claws were large globules or impacted faeces. This can only happen as a result of living in absolute filth. The overweight rabbits were unable to groom themselves sufficiently so there were dirty bottoms and impacted scent glands too, not to mention some suspect dental problems.

Baby Olly came from the same place; probably around 10 weeks old, this lop bunny boy has been rescued in the nick of time. We can now ensure that he gets a good diet and plenty of exercise in time for him to develop good health and good eating habits.

This latest group of admissions means that our rabbit tally has rocketed to over 30 once more. We really do need to find homes for our beautiful pairs and single men who have been waiting patiently for new homes. Until such time we can't admit any more rabbits again.

After 4 weeks of being closed to new admissions in the cattery due to mild flu-like symptoms we were finally able to admit new furries. Our last admissions had been Rudy and Donna on 22nd December who were abandoned in a woods in a box. We couldn't admit anyone sooner because the cold virus was still at work. But thanks to adoptions our 11 pen cattery saw us dwindle down to just 3 inmates, with 2 of them being reserved, leaving just our delightfully potty Jezebel waiting for a home.

So, it was with great relief this week that we were able to assist with a house full of 5 cats and 1 dog and take them all into our care at once. However, within hours it became apparent just how traumatic their ordeal had been, having been left to fend for themselves in a home without even litter trays. The word 'squalid' doesn't come near to describing the conditions that both humans and animals were living in. Needless to say both the humans and animals were given the helping hand they needed.

Much to our relief the cats are using their litter trays and have begun to eat. But they are a way off being ready for adoption as they huddle in fear together in their snuggle boxes. As for the dog, well he's in an even worst state and only time will tell.

The moment he stepped into his bed at the cattery.

And here is Logan. A late addition to our pick up yesterday. He was found abandoned in a terrible, matted state. The matting was so severe that he had to be sedated to remove his coat.. This was only done the day before but there was nowhere for him to go after his visit to the vets so a desperate call was made to us and we were only too happy to oblige. 

What was so remarkable about Logan was that even after 2 hours of travelling, including those horrible corners on the Woodhead Pass, he went straight into his new cosy bed and started purring as he got a fuss. And whilst he may look like he is wearing a funky body warmer he is in fact bald as a result of his neglectful state.

So, all in a day's work? Maybe, but not next week thanks. We need a bit of a breather so we can recover and re-energise in time for the next storm. I doubt we'll ever be surplus to requirements, but it's good to dream.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Can you help Anja fight for her life?

We currently have a little Rottweiler puppy fighting for her life at the vets who was cruelly abandoned late at night on Christmas Eve. At barely 8 weeks of age Anja was found in a box by a passerby who called the National RSPCA rescue line. She was found to be lame on one leg, shivering with cold and underweight. Anja spent Christmas at the National RSPCA vets and came into our charity's care on 27th December.
Anja on arrival, settling into her foster home - 27th December 2013
After two weeks Anja was no longer lame; it was originally suspected that her leg bones were growing at different rates but with her rapid development they soon rectified themselves. But no sooner had she got the all clear with her legs she came down with cystitis so off she went to the vets again. Whilst this improved in no time, late at night on Sunday 12th January Anja became desperately ill with vomiting and diarrhoea. She was rushed to the vets and admitted straight away. Anja has been there ever since fighting for her life with suspected parvo virus. Tests are currently inconclusive because of her recent vaccination, however today she has had to be operated on to explore abnormalities in her intestines. It is likely that the abnormalities may have been caused by the gastro enteritis but the picture remains vague and her future in doubt.

So far Anja's veterinary care is up to £1000. She is 11 weeks old now and we are desperate to give her every chance of recovering and going on to live a long and happy life but we are running out of funds. Her veterinary team are fighting hard to keep this little girl going and she's certainly doing her bit too. Can you help us help her?
Anja on Monday 13th January at the vets prior to being admitted

 If you would like to help us you can donate to Anja's vet treatment via the methods below:
Text: ANJA11 £1/2/3/4/5 or £10 to 70070
Online: Via Just Giving: (Please state: Anja)
Cheque: Made payable to 'RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch' and sent to:
Anja's Appeal
c/o Susie Hughes
RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch
565 Wilbraham Road
M21 0AE

If you would rather send a bank transfer please just email us for details:

Thank you on behalf of the team at RSPCA Manchester & Salford

Anja having cuddles with her foster dad prior to her illness

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Annual Review of 2013

The chance to reflect on the year gone by is both a melancholy and celebratory experience. There have been some prevailing themes in 2013 that are alluded to in our annual statistics below.

Animal Adoption


The reduction in cat adoption and admission figures in 2013 is quite striking. This year has seen what can only be described as a cat crisis. Back at the beginning of August I reported via the blog just how dire the situation had become. Across the country RSPCA branches were in serious trouble trying to cope with the sheer volume of adult cats and kittens being abandoned, rescued and relinquished. There seemed to be fewer homes than ever on offer for adult cats and by September the national RSPCA launched nationwide appeals for help on behalf of all the branches. The rehoming figures that you see above are largely compiled of kittens.

A decrease in neutering of owned animals was the reason for this crisis. In order for the cat population to remain stable 92% need to be neutered. The country was estimated to have reached a low of 89% and this small fluctuation was what was creating this terrible state of affairs. Our branch responded by teaming up with the RSPCA Greater Manchester Animal Hospital to launch a free cat neutering initiative, but despite the additional offer of free transport and free microchipping the uptake was disappointing.

The second striking thing about the figures is the reduction in dog adoption and admissions. This is down to one thing only; the number of dogs coming into our care requiring long-term rehabilitation as a result of their neglectful pasts. We have seen some sickening cases of animal cruelty this year, many of which have been endured by our canine friends. The immediate one that springs to everyone’s mind is Buster.

RSPCA inspectors investigated a complaint about a dog that had been left with horrific, untreated injuries. Buster had been attacked by members of the family he had lived with during the four years of his life and suffered unimaginable pain. This was no doubt worsened as the days went on as his deep wounds became infected.

We got Buster two weeks after he had been rescued by the RSPCA inspectors and you can see from the pictures just how revolting the wounds are. Buster defied all logic and reason; he was the most friendly and affectionate soul and oozed confidence and happiness when he was around us all. Some speculated that he was likely relieved to have come to a place of safety. Whatever the case may be he was a treasured soul.

Alas, Buster was denied the ultimate happy ever after when his life was cut tragically short. After weeks of veterinary intervention, when he was ready to be rehomed, he went off for neutering never to return. Tragically his heart stopped whilst under anaesthetic and he could not be resuscitated; such a rare and brutal occurrence and one that left us all reeling.

Buster represents one of many that we’ve had to spend weeks, and sometimes months, undoing the harm that has been caused by their previous owners. Denzel is one of the latest admissions, following the discovery that he had been kept locked in a room for six months, never let out and living knee-deep in his own faeces and urine.

Denzel is another remarkable animal who was clearly once a well-loved and well-looked after dog before being taken on by his last owner. Denzel, although suffering with agoraphobia as a result of his prolonged solitary confinement, has a great passion for people and desire to be their companion. Denzel will be placed up for adoption shortly and will make someone’s life complete.
Denzel dog

Reflecting on the rabbit adoption and admission figures it is clear that we will never, ever be able to meet the demand for spaces for rabbits. This year it has been commonplace for RSPCA inspectors to encounter homes where there have been up to 50, 100 and even 200 rabbits in just one dwelling. The sheer volume that are rescued, found unwanted and abandoned is worsening year on year and it’s all because of inadequate care and knowledge of the species.

We typically see cases of neglect resulting in emaciated rabbits with severe muscle atrophy due to being confined to live in tiny hutches, often without water, bedding or regular access to food. Brady was a victim of this level of deprivation. He was being kept in a 2ft hutch barely able to move. He had no access to food, water or bedding. He was living in inches deep of his own faeces, so bad that it was spilling out the hutch.
Brady tucking in.

Brady was lucky to survive. He required a good long while to build up his strength and get used to space and gradually being introduced to weight bearing exercise, but he made it and he loved his new found freedom. Even more incredible was just how much he loved our attention. He has since gone on to find the home he deserved as a house rabbit.
Brady, now Baker, tucking in to his Christmas dinner 

100% of the animals that we admitted during 2013 were RSPCA generated animals. In the majority of cases someone had failed to meet the needs of their animal whether through neglect, cruel treatment or abandonment. We do have a small proportion that is born in our care: rabbit kittens and feline kittens and they are always a source of great joy and delight!

We also help owned animals by offering free microchipping and free neutering to people on low incomes. This year we have, admittedly, scaled back on our microchipping activity in favour of fundraising events to make sure that we can fund the work that we do but we have still been able to help a sizable sum of animals.

Free Neutering
*does not include animals neutered via the RSPCA animal hospital scheme

Free Microchipping

A review of our activity must always include the contribution of our charity shops. Typically, in the past, they have raised enough money to fund at least 50% of our animal rehoming activity, but this year has proven disappointing. The first quarter of 2013 saw record low takings with fewer people seemingly having disposable income and fewer people than ever before donating their unwanted items. Some shops struggled to even break even during this period and it was an anxious time.

The launch of our fourth shop at the beginning of the year was blighted by the same struggle. It ran at a loss for so many months that we began to lose hope that we could ever make it work. But as the summer arrived all our shops began to flourish once more and the fourth shop, in the Northern Quarter, began to take off.
The Northern Quarter shop was broken into over Christmas causing £1k in damages

Whilst I am greatly relieved to be able to report that the shops have made us a profit in 2013 we are far from at the point of celebrating, instead we are focusing hard on working together to make sure we maximise our available resources to raise as much money as possible in 2014.
What we have learnt the hard way is that we can no longer rely on the shops for a stable stream of income and have to turn to ever more ingenious ways of fundraising, such as the Imperial War Museum Zipslide Challenge that we held in October. This, to date, is the branch’s most successful fundraising event ever. It raised over £9,000 thanks to 51 people who courageously zipped down a very thin line across the Manchester Ship Canal! The pressure is on to match the thrill of this event but we have something very exciting planned for 2014 that might just top it.

The last area that I feel is important to discuss is the branch’s successful use of social media and online resources. Whilst this is very much a team effort it is primarily orchestrated by just one person, our Chair. She spends hours innovating, researching and learning how best to promote our work. It’s thanks to this dedication that we now have thousands of followers via Facebook and Twitter who show us such generous support and acts of kindness. We’ve recruited countless new volunteers, received tremendous responses to appeals and rehomed so very many animals as a result of our social media activity. It really is quite humbling to see how much people value the work that we do and to know that there are so many people behind us. Above all we benefit from being reminded that people really do care and that motivates us to carry on.
Hannah picture after completing the Manchester Marathon in aid of the branch

As I come to the end of the annual review I once again find myself immensely proud of our branch’s contribution to animal welfare. It may not seem a lot to some, but given that we do not have an animal centre, and we only have two full time animal staff, I think we achieve an awful lot with very little. In 2014 my aim is to ensure we maintain the same level of activity, continue to provide as much support as we can to our colleagues in the field and offer the best level of care to the animals rescued from harm.

My thanks go to all the many volunteers and supporters of the branch. They are the ones who actually enable us to fulfil our charitable obligations. Without them we would be nothing and the animals would have nothing. It’s thanks to you that we exist and we never forget that or take you for granted.

The staff at the branch is a very special species that should not go unmentioned. When they are out walking dogs in rain drenched gales or sorting through vomit covered donations left on a shop doorstep, they do this only because they know they will make a difference to an animal’s life that day. It often seems to me that their motivation to improve the well-being of animals holds no bounds. Few clock watch, few work to rule and few think twice about giving up their spare time to help with fundraisers, conduct a home visit or just make sure that everything is just so.  

Whilst people may be the cause of all the suffering and pain they are also the solution and saviours. Thank you to everyone who keeps RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch going; we need you and want you by our side.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


I think I speak on behalf of everyone at the branch when I say that this year has been tough. The infrequency of blog posts during 2013 illustrate how hard we've been working and how challenged we've been by it all. Those rare moments of time off releases a selfish streak of wanting to savour the time for you, and you only. Inevitably the idea of writing a blog has been far from attractive for some time, but as the Winter months draw in, and the glut of unplanned, unwanted litters begins to abate, we are finally able to breath for the first time since Spring.

At the beginning of the year we faced an uncertain future; we didn't know if we'd still be operating in 12 months time. Our financial outlook was bleak, but just as we were considering a radical overhaul of our operations our prayers were answered. We became the grateful recipients of 3 legacies that secured our future for at least another 12 months, if not more. Whilst this was the best gift we could have wished for it didn't mean we could rest on our laurels.

As widespread economic hardship became ever more present in society, the usually reliable income stream from our charity shops significantly waned. We've had the most uphill battle this year with all 4 shops to turn a profit. There have been relentless, even valiant, efforts from all the shop staff to reverse fortunes yet we will still see a reduction in income in the region of £15k this year. This is a truly substantial sum of money to us, but as donations have been sparse, and disposable income even scarcer, it isn't any wonder that the shops have had such a terrible trading year.

We had a brief moment of euphoria last week when our Northern Quarter charity shop featured in an article in The Guardian. We are immensely proud to have been spotted and praised for our maverick take on traditional charity shops. It's good to know that we are doing something right! We've been open 10 months and still struggling to make a mark in the area, but we still have every faith that we are on to a winner.

Aside from our financial struggles, the hardest thing this year has been the lack of homes on offer for adult cats. I suspect by the end of the year we will have rehomed around 40 less adult cats than in 2012. For the first time in a very long time we've had cats waiting up to 3 months,, or longer, to find new homes. Previously they would only wait a matter of 2 to 3 weeks but this year the homes just haven't been forthcoming.

Carla came into our care at 5 months of age and left when she was 9 months old.
Growing up in a cattery is nothing short of tragic. 

Maybe this is because we've had a larger influx of black cats, who notoriously take 3 times as long to rehome than any other colour. Maybe it's because this year has seen a glut, and I mean a glut, of kittens. There have surely been unprecedented numbers of nursing queens, abandoned kittens and heavily pregnant cats all needing refuge. This has been a nationwide phenomenon and one that all animal charities have desperately struggled to cope with this Summer.

It has all boiled down to one thing; the overpopulation of cats in the UK. I read some interesting statistics that revealed that if neutering is at a level of around 92% then we keep the population relatively stable. However, the neutering rate is currently just over 89% and it is this minor fluctuation that has caused such a dramatic rise in unwanted litters.

I think few people realise that their kittens can get pregnant whilst still a kitten. This lack of knowledge likely leads to a delay in having them neutered, and before you know it they are pregnant or have fathered a litter. What happens next? Maybe one or two of the litter will fall pregnant and so on and so on. Just two mated cats can be responsible for 80 million off-spring in as little time as one decade! With these facts at hand it's easy to see why we've been in a cat crisis this year. But seemingly it is not so easy to convince people to get their cats 'done', 'fixed', 'neutered', whatever you want to call it.

The other prevailing challenge of this year has been on the dog side of things. Our rehoming figures have dropped dramatically. This isn't because of anything that we are doing wrong, but because of the long-term rehabilitation many dogs have required before they have been able to be placed up for adoption. You see when you only have 4 kennels and one or two foster homes, and maybe 2 or even 3 of those dogs at anyone time undergoing lengthy retraining, or extensive veterinary intervention, it means that the throughput of animals is significantly reduced.

We've gone for weeks on end with maybe just one dog available for adoption; therefore less dogs available for people to offer a home to. We are, however, proud of the achievements we have made with the dogs this year. We've been able to help seemingly unrehomable/hard-to-home dogs to have a new lease of life and live a life worth living.

Take Tyson, for example, pictured above. He had the most terrible phobia of leads. It took months of desensitisation and counter-conditioning programmes to enable him to learn to cope with leads and take walks for the first time in his life. Tyson went on to the find the best home any of us could have ever wished for. He's been in it for a few weeks now and we are biding our time before we call to find how he's getting on - it's torture not knowing!

Douglas is the white dog in the picture snuggled up alongside his foster mum's dogs.

Then there was Douglas. Three months he spent in a foster home after he'd been abandoned on an industrial estate with an irreparable broken leg. The leg had to be amputated and he had to learn to live as tripod, but sadly he developed phantom limb syndrome so this added complication meant several more weeks of treatment. Douglas went on to make a full recovery and to over-come the psychological trauma of loosing a limb and he now lives in Yorkshire and has a doggie best friend.


Or how about Bailey and Tilly?  This brother and sister had endured a neglectful life. They were like feral dogs when they arrived. They were wildly out of control and had received no training whatsoever. Being large dogs it could be dangerous being alone with them but after months of hard work, using reward based training they are transformed. Tilly is off to her new home on Monday whilst Bailey is still waiting for a home to call his own.

There are so many more dogs I could tell you about that epitomise the type of 'cases' we see these days. This is about the nature of the rescues our inspectors undertake and, quite frankly, a sign of the times. What I am so very certain about is just how proud I am of my team of staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to give these animals the chance of a happy life.  We may have only found homes for 35 dogs so far this year but each of those animals has now a change in fortune, a chance to be loved and to love.

Yes this year has been hard, but it's uplifting to know that we have made a difference. Sometimes success should not be measured by numbers alone, sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the individuals whose lives we have touched and changed for the better. I feel sickened and angry each time I hear people berate the RSPCA. Walk a day in our lives and tell us we aren't working hard enough. Walk a day in our lives and then say to our faces we are doing a poor job. 

The fact is we can't help everyone and everything, we have to focus on what we can manage and do that to the best of our abilities. I believe the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch has stayed true to this commitment all year, so whilst I can't tell you we've rehomed hundreds and hundreds of animals, I can tell you that we have helped countless individuals learn to enjoy life and trust in humans. We have given many animals a reason to live again and a well deserved chance at happiness. I'm sorry if that's not good enough for some people but that's what we've got to offer - hope.