Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Rest

We are into our second year with the ‘Rescue Animal of the Year’ awards and this time round we shortlisted to nine, as opposed to twelve in the first year we ran it. We thought it might make it easier for the voters to choose, but in all honesty they are all such worthy winners. It then got me thinking about the animals that didn’t make the short-list, so I thought I’d share some of my personal favourites……

Bilbo was an all-time favourite cat amongst all the staff and volunteers. He was special in so many ways and someone who will forever remain in our hearts. Despite giving him all the veterinary treatment he required, money just couldn’t undo the years of neglect he had endured as a long-term stray. Everyone absolutely devastated when he could no longer walk and had to be put to sleep. Animal Welfare Assistant Debs Beats aptly sums him up:

“Bilbo should win best rescue animal because he really was just that. He never stopped purring even when we were putting ears drops in three times a day, bathing parts of him in salt water, poking and prodding him all day and worse of all putting him on a diet! He just wanted hugs and strokes all day long and was happy to spend the rest of the day curled up in his bed. Even during his last couple of days when he could no longer walk straight he still managed to sit up and hold one paw up as he did to look extra cute in the hope of getting extra treats, which of course we always ended up giving him! If he had been a human he would have been one of those inspirational people that have a terrible illness but somehow manages to run marathons!”

Boris was abandoned by his owner when they moved out and lived as a stray for a long time before coming into our care. Our Chair, Hannah Brookfield, shares why she nominated Boris:

“Boris was a lovely, friendly chap that I always remember fondly. Being a black and white cat he already had the odds stacked against him for finding a home (black and white cats, along with black cats aren’t as popular as all the other coat colours). Thankfully, his winning personality finally won his new family over and they adopted him this year. I have lots of pictures of Boris playing with his fluffy pink mouse in the cattery which always make me smile.”

Murray came into our care along with his brothers Brett and Jermaine when they were a couple of weeks old. A teenager found them abandoned, tried in earnest to care for them but after a few day alerted his youth worker who in turn contacted the RSPCA. The kittens were in a very poor way and sadly on Boxing Day 2010 Brett went dramatically downhill and lost his fight to life.

Trustee Dave Hartley explains why he nominated Murray:

“Murray was one of my brother’s and his partners very first foster kittens. I remember him when he was a tiny, sickly, little furry blob who needed lots of care and attention from the fosterers, nursing him two hours a day round the clock for ages. He was finally rehomed with his brother and a year on is a gorgeous, big ginger cat, with a tail to die for!”

Mr Jeremy was brought into our care as a long-term stray that had a sensitive tummy that flared up again when he was adopted. After 5 weeks he was returned but thankfully he cleared up straightway but we still took the route of an elimination diet plan and he remained in foster care until he found his forever home in Rossendale. Because he was with his foster family for so long the wrench was hard, but to this day we still receive updates from his 80 year old ‘dad’! Her, his foster mum explains why Mr Jeremy got her vote:

“Jeremy had the nicest temperament. He was cool and relaxed and was always up for a fuss. He never raised a paw or showed any kind of unhappiness. Even though he had to have the plainest food you've ever seen he never meowed in complaint; he just got on with it. I’ll never forget being allowed to let him out to play (he had been with us that long): it was summer and he ran after leaves blowing in the garden like a kitten. We loved him so much.”

Porky was brought into our care after his fairly young owner had tragically passed away. He was a nervous young boy who’d had minimal socialising and was totally unable to cope with the world. We had intended to put him in the kennels but within moments of arrival it was obvious this could not happen. We were very lucky to have our wonderful foster parents Sue and Simon come to his rescue and thanks to their hard work and determination a remarkable transformation took place and he was able to be rehomed. Here his foster mum explains all:

“Porky-piggy was absolutely petrified of everyone; let’s just say that he even emptied his bladder and bowels all over the vets whilst they tried to check him over. He also frantically tried to bite anyone that tried to get near him, hence he was a bit of a problem dog to put into kennels and we ended up with the little guy. After 7 weeks with us he ended up being the most affectionate, playful, fun-loving little dog; and we loved him even though he was the strangest looking dog you’ve ever seen - we called him a Westie on stilts!”

Bonnie came into our care after she was dumped in a bin just a few hours old and left for dead. Everyone was rooting for her as her first foster parents hand-reared her round the clock and performed nothing short of a miracle. Once weaned Bonnie went to a foster home where she could be socialised with large breed dogs. Here her second foster explains why she nominated Bonnie:

“Bonnie is now a bouncy hippo of a puppy and growing every day. She chews everything and anything including me and my husband and our 3 dogs. She’s heaps of fun and a little terror too. She has a little stubborn streak, but is such a sweetheart. She is going to be the most amazingly stunning companion, all be it a bit slavvery , yuk! I must say it’s been a pleasure looking after such amazing animals.”

Earl came into our care along with Lady, as there owner was unable to give them (and 4 other dogs) the care that they needed and were being kept in kennels 24/7 and rarely exercised. One of our volunteers explains why she nominated Earl:

“Earl was one of those cases that stick in my mind because he represents thousands of other dogs that have been in the same position. Being an ex-racer he was kennelled badly and had terrible bald patches on his back legs. I remember walking him in November 2010 and he was shivering with cold but two of the staff at Ashleigh Vets bought him and Lady coats. Luckily we managed to rehome Earl pretty quickly (and Lady too). I did his home visit just before Christmas last year. I was soon sent lots of pictures of him on the sofa and sprawled out in front of the fire with his Santa hat on. This is where greyhounds belong, not on the race track.”

Willow was signed over to our care by her owners who found to be failing to meet her needs. She was not the first dog we had taken from them. Two of our dog walkers explain why they nominated Willow:

“Willow was the most amazingly gentle, well behaved gorgeous dog! Considering the size of her she could have been a nightmare but she was the complete opposite and such a happy lovely dog! I always looked forward to seeing her!” Sarah McConville

“Willow the Great Dane was a big softie who used to nudge her head against you when out walking with her. I loved her to bits.” Jo Aljibouri

Clint had outgrown accommodation at two other RSPCA branches before coming into our care. He had been just 2 months old when rescued but he was a Continental Giant and grew to massive proportions and was temporarily being kept in a dog kennel until we came to his rescue. His adopter remembers the day he arrived because she cares for our bunnies at her private boarding establishment:

“Clint was transferred with his brother from another RSPCA branch. He came in very nervous and looking very sorry for himself. Having recently lost our gorgeous Benny-Benson, a Continental Giant house bunny with an awful brain tumour, we fell instantly for Clint and his brother and ended up adopting Clintos. He has come on in leaps and bounds and is quite the cheeky, quietly confident lad now and loves a special tickle from his new mum (me).”

Margot’s fate was so typical of so many rabbits that come into animal welfare charities’ care. She was found stray and was rescued by a member of the public. One of our volunteers explains why she nominated Margot:

“Margot was just a stunning rabbit that must have had some sort of hare in there too! I remember taking photos of her for our website after she had just arrived; she was so brave and dying to get out for a run. I can see how she ended up straying! Many of the rabbits are so scared when they come into our care due to the ill-treatment they have often suffered so it was a refreshing change to meet a super confident and uber naughty bunny!”

We owe everything and more to the dedication of our staff, volunteers and the private-boarding staff for making sure these very special animals get the chance to live a life worth living, against all the odds. 98% of the animals taken into our care in 2011 were RSPCA ‘generated’, which means they have been rescued from cruelty, neglect and/or abandonment. We are the only animal welfare charity in England and Wales that does what it does, which means our animals are very special indeed.

I can’t wait for the festivities to be over so we can get back to doing what we do best – rehabilitating and rehoming these exceptional furry people.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


Hi my name is Charlie, I am a 2 year old male Collie cross. I have been in the care of the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch since just before Christmas a lovely lady rescued me from a disused warehouse yard, my previous owner had thrown me over the fence and just left me there! I am a favourite with the kennel staff I love my walks and cuddles.

On 17th April 2008, after waiting 5 months to find someone to love him, Charlie was reserved. Charlie meant a lot to us all, but especially the inspector who rescued him. She closely followed his progress and was as thrilled as we were when he left to live with his 'dad' Graham Revell. The above passage is taken from his original write up on and it made me realised what a long way we have come since April 2008.

Since 2008 we have probably rehomed nearly 200 dogs, just like Charlie, that were rescued from despair. It is thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff that we are
still here today, albeit with less funds and half the number of kennels we once had, but we are still here thanks to you all. Charlie and Graham remember us each and every Christmas with a lovely handmade card and a generous donation to our work.

It deeply touches me that they continue to remember us and support us and it is so reassuring to know we have friends like them out there.
I know we have so many friends out there like Charlie and Graham, which makes it all so worthwhile. Thank you to you all for making us what we are; we couldn't be here without you, your faith and support means so much.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, 16 December 2011

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

This week has been such a contrast between joyful Christmas spirit and sheer incredulity.

We have been so lucky to have had such a great response to our Xmas Pet Toy appeal that on Tuesday each and every bunny got new treats and toys to play with and on Wednesday all the dogs got the same! In fact, the response to the dog toys has been so great that we've been able to have a much needed clear out of all the worn, well-loved toys that had seen better days.

We have not seen the dogs so happy in ages, and you know what rabbits are like: if they are eating they are happy! We have some more fantastic enrichment toys to give to the bunnies today and it's all just been so exciting and uplifting and I cannot thank everyone enough for donating so generously.

But whilst our friends and supporters have been so wonderfully kind and caring I'm afraid there has been the typical ,darker side going on.

By Tuesday I really had had a gut full of people calling 'to buy a kitten for their kids for Christmas'. Not a single person had a clue. One person actually challenged me when I said we don't rehome pets as presents and demanded to know why. I said that for over 20 years now animal welfare charities have campaigned against this and it was something she was genuinely unaware of. She didn't seem to listen to my explanation either, so there goes another homeless animal in the new year.

On a related topic, I read this week (courtesy of the Rabbit Welfare Fund) that within the first year of purchase 60% of pet rabbits are relinquished to animal sanctuaries. Sounds a lot, doesn't it? Well, when you consider that the figure amounts to 21,000 you can't help but feel opposed to pet shops selling animals. Currently the Rabbit Welfare Fund is conducting research to find out how many rabbits are in rescues throughout the UK. The previous figure was 35,000 at anyone time, but it's now thought to be much higher. But just think about that for a moment- 21,000 rabbits given up within the first year and 35,000 waiting for a new home at any one time.

Uh. It's so frustrating and makes me so mad. But people just won't have it that rabbits do not make good children's pets. Family pets, yes, but not children's pets. And as I sit here all cosy and warm as the snow falls in Salford - how many rabbits do you think will get ignored today because the owner doesn't want to go out and get cold?

Other bewildering 'snippets' that have happened this week.....
  • one caller sticks in my mind, who rang up to say we had to collect her cat cos she didn't want it any more because she'd gone and got a dog
  • another one rang to say we had to pay for her animal to see the vet as she'd spent all her money on Christmas presents
  • and I learnt of a rescue yesterday of 3 pups abandoned outside a labour club in the freezing cold

The calls to relinquish animals hasn't abated and matters are made far worse because there are no spaces anywhere because there are no animal adoptions at this time of year - either centres choose to close or people turn their attention to the festivities. But abuse from the general public doesn't stop just because it's Christmas and I know many of us have been getting a lot of it recently but the fact is we don't have the answers! Our cattery, kennels and foster carers are already full and will remain that way until the New Year when adoptions pick up again.

So, if I can ask one thing of people over the next week, please spend some extra time with your furries. Treat them to a new toy, buy them something extra special to eat or give them extra play time. Please, take a moment to cherish them and let them know just how lucky they are to be loved by you, because there are so many out there that aren't loved and cherished as they deserve to be.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

What a team!

Our volunteers are simply brilliant. They really are a fantastic team and always, always come good for us when we have an event on and yesterday was no exception to the rule.

We held our annual Xmas Fayre and Free Pet Health Clinic yesterday at Rainbow Community Centre in Eccles. Despite the usual lack of support from the local paper our 1000 leaflet drop seemed to do the trick and people came along in a steady, manageable trickle all afternoon and much to our surprise, by the end of the day, we had seen 115 animals and microchipped 65 of them! And what a menagerie we saw, thanks to having our exotic vet friend Molly Varga health checking.
There was:
80 dogs
16 cats
8 rabbits
5 snakes
2 tortoises
2 rats
1 raccoon - yes, a raccoon
1 hamster

It was funny because I had only been telling someone a few days previously about the growing trend for keeping increasingly diverse exotic animals. We once had skunks at one of our free clinics and that an inspector had recently rescued a stray raccoon. And low and behold would you 'Adam and Eve it' a raccoon appeared at the clinic yesterday. The animal was very well looked after and very beautiful, but it was tinged with sadness for us all because the owners were planning on breeding from her. And before you ask where you get them from there is a pet shop in Manchester that sells them along with Meerkats and Skunks and plenty of other animals that should be left in the wild, in my opinion.

Are we really any better than the old school safari 'trophy hunters'? I mean, have we really moved on all that much if these animals are now being peddled as pets? It makes you wonder really, doesn't it? I mean, when will mankind stop at appropriating animals for its own gain?

As Christmas looms ever nearer there has been a surge in calls from people wanting 'to get rid' of their pets. I promise you this is the exact term of phrase people use. Even someone who had had their dog for 10 years used the term 'get rid' this week and it upset me so much. I confess to having had enough of it all this week and the doldrums have well and truly struck. I'm tired of being expected to have the answers to everything and I'm distressed at the relentless onslaught of unwanted pets and I'm above all fed up with people hell-bent on hating the RSPCA.

It's so bad these days that I am reluctant to tell people where I work if they ask me. And it's not because I ashamed, it's because of the incredible amount of misinformation out there that so often converts to hatred towards our organisation. Two examples of this have arisen this week.

Firstly, there was an article in the Daily Mail about the Turton House Case. When my colleague sent me the link it was attached with a note saying 'I wonder what the truth really is behind this article?' Do you know, it was staggering the allegations made against the RSPCA for alleged 'in action'. And then the comments afterwards from members of the public who were clearly RSPCA haters were just awful. I mean upsettingly awful; but I don't suppose they care.

The very next day I received a document that outlined the true involvement the RSPCA had had with the Turton House Case and my goodness, it was extensive and reassuring. The newspaper article could not have been much further from the truth and in reality the RSPCA (and other horse welfare charities that worked in partnership with us over it) had gone above and beyond in helping to secure these animals' welfare whilst acting within the law.

This is the bit that people seem to fail to understand each and every time they are so quick to criticise - the RSPCA is a charity and does everything voluntarily and has no legal powers. It deeply saddens me why people have such little appreciation for this fact, and, that to prosecute someone costs thousands of pounds. Unless there is substantial evidence (and usually there has to be a vet willing to testify), the charity cannot just throw the money around; it has to justify spending the public's hard-earned, generously donated money.

The other fact that people don't understand is that the RSPCA cannot 'seize' an animal. It has to be the police who do it and invariably the police have to have a vet willingly to go on record saying that it is in the animal's best interest to do so. Again, something that the papers don't bother explaining. It's so frustrating because each time the papers inaccurately report on a case the harm they cause to morale and reputation is so great, yet they get away with it each and every time.

The second reason why I shy away is because of this widespread belief that the RSPCA puts to sleep animals if they haven't found a home in 7 days. Jeeez, if that was true how come we've got animals in our care that have been waiting 14 months to find new homes? So, when I was introduced to someone on a night out on Friday who's first question to me was whether the RSPCA pts after 7 days, I just shook my head and smiled and told the truth. Where does this nonsense even come from? But it's myths like these that perpetuate and breed and develop into contempt towards our organisation that in turn makes doing our work so much harder.

For the time being, the fight has gone out of me because for now, it has all just got a bit too much. I always say that the worst bit about this work isn't the animal rescue side but the people side, and at the moment it has well and truly 'got to me'.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

'Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message'

A very dear friend of mine sent me the 'Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message' below. I suspect it is from America from the spellings. I was struck by many of the frustrations we have in common with the author even though we are so many miles apart. So much of it rings chillingly true that I just had to share it.

Carla Bottle edited a doc. Why our rescue centres are full.....
Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message:
Press 1 if you have a 10-year-old dog and your 15-year-old son has suddenly become allergic and you need to find the dog a new home right away. Press 2 if you are moving today and need to immediately place your 150 pound, 8-year-old dog.
Press 3 if you have three dogs, had a baby a...nd want to get rid of your dogs because you are the only person in the world to have a baby and dogs at the same time.
Press 4 if you just got a brand new puppy and your old dog is having problems adjusting so you want to get rid of the old one right away.
Press 5 if your little puppy has grown up and is no longer small and cute and you want to trade it in for a new model.
Press 6 if you want an unpaid volunteer to come to your home TODAY and pick up the dog you no longer want.
Press 7 if you have been feeding and caring for a "stray" for the last three years, are moving and suddenly determine it's not your dog.
Press 8 if your dog is sick and needs a vet (but you need the money for your vacation).
Press 9 if you are elderly and want to adopt a cute puppy who is not active and is going to outlive you.
Press 10 if your relative has died and you don't want to care for their elderly dog because it doesn't fit your lifestyle.
Press 14 if you are calling at 6 a.m. to make sure you wake me up before I have to go to work so you can drop a dog off on your way to work.
Press 15 to leave us an anonymous garbled message, letting us know you have left a dog in our yard in the middle of January, which is in fact, better than just leaving the dog with no message.
Press 16 if you are going to get angry because we are not going to take your dog that you have had for fifteen years, because it is not our responsibility.
Press 17 if you are going to threaten to take your ten year old dog to be euthanized because I won't take it.
Press 18 if you're going to get angry because the volunteers had the audacity to go on vacation and leave the dogs in care of a trusted volunteer who is not authorized to take your personal pet.
Press 19 if you want one of our PERFECTLY trained, housebroken, kid and cat friendly purebred dogs that we have an abundance of.
Press 20 if you want us to take your dog that has a slight aggression problem, i.e. has only bitten a few people and killed your neighbor's cats.
Press 21 if you have already called once and been told we don't take personal surrenders but thought you would get a different person this time with a different answer.
Press 22 if you want us to use space that would go to a stray to board your personal dog while you are on vacation, free of charge, of course.
Press 23 if it is Christmas Eve or Easter morning and you want me to deliver an eight week old puppy to your house by 6:30 am before your kids wake up.
Press 24 if you have bought your children a duckling, chick or baby bunny for Easter and it is now Christmas and no longer cute.
Press 25 if you want us to take your female dog who has already had ten litters, but we can't spay her because she is pregnant again and it is against your religion.
Press 26 if you're lying to make one of our younger volunteers feel bad and take your personal pet off your hands.
Press 27 if your cat is biting and not using the litter box because it is declawed, but you are not willing to accept the responsibility that the cat's behavior is altered because of your nice furniture.
Press 28 if your two year old male dog is marking all over your house but you just haven't gotten around to having him neutered.
Press 29 if you previously had an outdoor only dog and are calling because she is suddenly pregnant.
Press 30 if you have done "everything" to housebreak your dog and have had no success but you don't want to crate the dog because it is cruel.
Press 31 if you didn't listen to the message asking for an evening phone number and you left your work number when all volunteers are also working and you are angry because no one called you back.
Press 32 if you need a puppy immediately and cannot wait because today is your daughter's birthday and you forgot when she was born.
Press 33 if your dog's coat doesn't match your new furniture and you need a different color or breed.
Press 34 if your new love doesn't like your dog and you are too stupid to get rid of the new friend (who will dump you in the next month anyway) instead of the dog.
Press 35 if it is Christmas Eve, and the Shih Tzu that you got 7 months ago because your 8 yr old and your 11 yr old PROMISED to take care of it isn't working out and you are going to teach them a lesson by making them walk the dog up to the rescuer's door to give it up. Merry Christmas, kids!
Press 36 if you went through all these 'options' and didn't hear enough. This press will connect you to the sounds of tears being shed by one of our volunteers who is holding a discarded old dog while the vet mercifully frees him from the grief of missing his family

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rattie Xmouse!

I spent the day yesterday at Rainbow Community Centre in Eccles; it was an absolute pleasure. For those of you who know me, you will know this is not my idea of rock 'n' roll! So, why was it so enjoyable? Because I saw true community spirit was alive and kicking. Moreover it is in the heart of Salford where social deprivation is high but this seemed irrelevant yesterday and everyone took part in a Xmas Fayre, show casing their talents.

The centre manager and her team do a wonderful job and I have so much admiration for them. It's because of their enthusiasm that we regularly hold animal welfare events there. So, when I was told by the manager that they are going to fundraise for us next year I was absolutely bowled over. Just amazing.

We will be back at Rainbow next Sat with our free vet clinic and Xmas fayre of sorts. I hope the community comes out in force again to make it a worthwhile event. Paws crossed!

I also got to spend the afternoon with our volunteer Rachel, who has been with us now for at least 2 years, doing home visits and helping at events. Just like so many of our volunteers I see Rachel as a friend first and foremost. She's such an amazing person and so giving and caring. And yesterday she proved such a tonic after a very difficult week. In fact it was Rachel who said to me, 'you haven't updated the blog in a while, is that because you've been having a bad time?'. I smiled and nodded and said that in the last two weeks we had had a very rough time.

As you know, from a previous blog, there was the loss of Cassie. Well, in the last 2 weeks we've also had to have 2 new cats put to sleep along with Zoe bunny. This is an unprecedented number for us, so along with this and other 'challenges' it really has been very tough going. Zoe has caused me and her carers a lot of upset because of her history and length of time with us and no matter how many times we go through this it never, ever gets any easier.

On a positive though, we are doing incredibly well for cat rehoming again. Currently there are only 4 cats in the cattery not reserved! This makes us smile plenty!

Unfortunately it doesn't look like Oscar dog is going to get a home for Xmas and we are desperate to see this happen. If you haven't read about Oscar please take a look at our website. He was beaten by his previous owner yet despite the emotional and physical scars he bears he is a wonderful lad. He really deserves the best Xmas present ever. So, in case his wish list doesn't come true we are going to launch a toy appeal for him and the other pooches and bunnies that will be with us this Xmas.

And if you aren't quite yet in the festive spirit we have a competition you might just enjoy. See Polly rattie in my Xmas tree? Well, we are asking you to submit your seasonal photos on our Facebook page and the winner will be our profile pic over the Xmas and New Year week. So, far we've had some crackers but I suspect Polly will be the only rattie submission. What do you think?

Friday, 25 November 2011

Just Purrfect

This is a special thank you to a lady called Karen and her furry friend 'Kitten'.

On the night of the Purrfect Party there was this card and photo of Kitten waiting for me at the venue.

Inside was a lovely note about how much Karen cherished Kitten and a £20 donation.

I cannot tell how touched I was that someone who doesn't know me would do such a generous and kind gesture.

I really feel the card was an omen, because the night ended up being a fabulous success with fun had by everyone and a profit of £1100 made.

Thank you Karen, kitten and everyone else who supported the event - you are very special indeed.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Cassie was a 9 year old brindle staffie. The type of dog that doesn't get rehomed. The type of dog that gets overlooked for months on end and languishes in kennels hoping and waiting, and hoping.

There are thousands of Cassie-types out there. They are like the dog equivalent of black cats; so frustratingly hard to rehome. The pretty ones always go first and the 'average' or 'nondescript' stay forever, waiting forever for that elusive forever home.

Cassie was special. Cassie was incredibly special. Not just to me but to everyone who met her. Cassie was possibly the most well-rounded, well-behaved, good natured, fun, cuddly, loving dogs you will ever meet. I absolutely adored her.

Today I took Cassie to be put to sleep. The decision to do so was made the day before. Biopsy results revealed she was positive for cancer. An indeterminate and potentially aggressive form of cancer. Aside from being unable to treat/remove 'it', there is no-one out there who would possibly rehome a 9 year old brindle staffie with cancer.

Cassie was incredible to the end. When she had a her leg shaved for the sedation injection she was too busy kissing the staff and wagging her tail to even notice what was happening. She continued exuding her infectious personality even as she slowly drifted off to sleep.

Cassie made loving her so very very easy, which made letting her go so devastatingly hard to do.

Thank you to all our wonderful staff and volunteers and vets for doing such a brilliant job of looking after Cassie whilst she was with us. One thing is for sure she was very well loved.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Joy of Kittens

This week we have a guest blog from one of our wonderful foster mum's Carmen Holland.

You look around to see another pair of headphones have been destroyed and the culprit is now running around the hallway, dripping wet and looking rather startled having just jumped into the toilet.

Meanwhile little Bowie is calmly making his way around trying to make friends with everyone, but is not finding success with Ruby who just wants to follow her brother Rio around, whilst he shows off to everyone because he just knows he’s the leader of this gang. Flori is lying on the bed watching them all in what I like to think is a rather judgemental manner - because she’s older and finds all this childish behaviour rather embarrassing. Of course, I can't give her attention because Pippa leaps onto me, determined to be centre of attention and not let anyone else have a minute of my time. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a segment of the life of a large family. Which I suppose it is – it’s just a bunch of kittens instead of children.

We have been fostering rescue kittens for just over a year now. Fostering simply means that we give these kittens a home until they are adopted into their ‘forever’ homes. Our first little lodger was a tiny black kitten called Oscar. He was only a couple of weeks old when he was found stray so he needed to be hand-reared, which meant making up specific kitten milk and feeding him every four hours. I remember being terrified that we weren't doing it right and worrying he wasn't warm enough. Of course everything we were doing was right and he left us as a very healthy and energetic kitten. Since then we have hand-reared seven more kittens, so it’s fair to say we're now pros at assembling a feeding area of blankets, milk formula, warm water and cotton wool balls (for helping them go to the toilet afterwards).

It's rarely plain sailing though. Whether they come to us very young still in need of a 'mum' or they are older and they just require love, we often have problems. The story of them being dumped is all too common a tale to hear and this was true for three little kittens that came into our care last November, who we called Bret, Jermaine and Murray. They had been found dumped in a box in the freezing winter conditions in someone's garden. For little Bret this terrible start to life got the better of him and he spent the little time he had unwell. In the end the decision was made to end his suffering and he was put to sleep last December. I remember thinking that it was my fault and I did something wrong, but a text from the branch manager Susie reminded me that it was a miracle that two of the three had survived after being so young and having such an unconventional start to life. Jermaine ( now Tigger ) and Murray have now got a brilliant home and I've just been invited round to see them for their 1st birthday!

After putting together a scrapbook of all the kittens we have fostered, we’ve discovered that we've had 27 cats in total. All different sizes, colours and ages, but all with the reminder of just how cruel people can sometimes be. It's a truly lovely feeling when you take in this vulnerable life and watch it blossom from love and trust. Our bedroom has now become the 'kittens’ bedroom' because it is dominated by play tubes, plastic mice and ping pong balls.

When we have potential adopters come by to see the kittens we are always asked the same question; 'How do you let them go?' But I've now realised that letting them go is the best bit. Knowing they have found safety in their ‘forever’ home is what this is all for. We are just a small cog in this machine. I've often been left amazed and in awe by how much work the branch do on such a small number of staff and volunteers. A daily look at the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch facebook page shows you how they never stop working for these animals. I would encourage anyone who wants to get involved in whatever way to do it! You really do get the best feeling reading a success story and knowing that you had a small part in creating it.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I'm not sure now what exactly set it all off on Tuesday, but once it started I just spent the week seeing one example after another. What am I on about? Just how wonderful our team is.

On Tuesday I was struck with a warm, cosy feeling about just how wonderful our team is. This feeling continued to burn strongly throughout the week and every day something happened to remind me just how special everyone is to me, and the animals. Whether it was turning up at foster mums homes at uncivilised times of the day, requiring late finishes from the staff or meetings at different organisations there was always a supportive smile or a genuine willing acceptance.

Our team comprises of such committed staff, passionate volunteers and regular supporters that are just rocks to me; they always seem to know when we've run out of kitten food or I need an email/text to cheer me up (one this week was a picture of bunny poop!). But more than ever this week I have had a strong sense of everyone rallying round to help with the animals and fundraising and it has meant so much to me. Everyone has been so generous of spirit on a week when we have needed it more than ever.

Kitten season is, for the second year in a row, continuing with a vengeance and well beyond the summer months. There continues to be more multi-cat home rescues that our branch alone is unable to cope with so we are truly grateful to neighbouring branches, Stockport and Tameside, for rallying round to make sure all the animals can be given a second chance. But really what is impacting on us more than ever is the recession.

The one thing I've heard over and over again this week on the phones is the number of people having to relinquish animals due to housing problems. There was an article in the Guardian this week about how much the nation's pets are being affected by the recession. I suppose to the wider general public this was 'news' but to us it's all we've heard for the last two years, but undoubtedly the problems have dramatically escalated in the last two months or so.

The most saddening aspect is when people call to say that they have tried all the animals shelters and they are all full and ask me what next can be done to rehouse their animals. Quite simply I don't have the answer, but typically the caller's frustration boils over and there becomes this entrenched expectation that we should do something. I often get people saying ' you're the RSPCA, you're supposed to be animals lovers!' Or, 'call yourselves the RSPCA; you're a disgrace.' Or, 'I've been donating to you for years. What was the point? I'm cancelling my subscription.'

I always take the time to explain that we have to prioritise the animals the RSPCA field staff rescue and that there is never enough spaces for these animals. (Let's face it, what's the point in us rescuing the animals if we have nowhere for them to go?) I also explain that we are an independent charity from the national RSPCA and have very limited resources.

But, if you were in a desperate predicament would you care about any of this? No, and understandably so. All I do know is that all the animal shelters, just like us, are doing our absolute level best to help as many animals as we can, but that we all have finite resources and spaces - we have just 4 dog spaces and 11 cattery spaces. I really do wish I had the answer, but equally, I really do wish people would think through the long-term implications of allowing their pets to breed.

So, as the cat and kitten crisis worsens I feel a small miracle happens each time one is reserved. It is something that keeps us all so highly motivated - the animals finding new homes. It is simply thrilling and this weekend, so far, we have had 4 cats and bunny reserved and I'm really keeping everything crossed for a second bunny, Shady, to be reserved too.

Many of you know we've had a very difficult year for rabbit rehomings and as a consequence of having several large cases in our care we've been overrun with bobtails. It has meant that we have been pretty much closed to admissions for the year but there is a very strong likelihood that we will be able to start taking in again, as we have had a recent run of adoptions that have seen our numbers nearly drop by half. I don't want to get too excited just yet but I can't quite tell you how much this prospect means to me.

So, I want to finish on sharing with you one of my highlights of the week. The pictures above are of our sable lop called Ruby. She was seized by inspectors in Sept 2010 along with a large number of other animals from an allotment. It took 11 months to conclude the prosecution of the owner, which meant that Ruby and her chums were with us a very long-time until being released for adoption just a couple of months ago.

Ruby was spotted by a family in south Yorkshire after their boy bunny had lost his partner. They were experienced at pairing rabbits so they took Ruby home to do the introductions themselves. The day Ruby left we all took a big gulp. It was really quite sad to see her go but of course it was all we had ever wanted for her.

Today I opened my email to find the most wonderful update waiting for me. Ruby and Basil were officially 'married' and had been successfully living together for 5 days and it was time to make the adoption official!

What the pictures show you is Ruby enjoying the true meaning of freedom for the first time in her life - running around, eating grass and plants and having a companion to share her life with. These pictures are symbolic of everything we strive to achieve and they just make me feel so emotional, proud and grateful. I hope you enjoy them too.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Black Magic

Guest blogger Becky Day-Preston debunks the myths about black cats for a Halloween Special:

Did you know that black cats take three times longer to be rehomed than cats of other colours? I know, it seems totally ridiculous, and as the owner of a black cat, I take personal offence!

I have had my black moggy, Alan, for three years, and he is absolutely fantastic. He was a rescue cat, adopted from the mean streets by a lovely lady and her family, who then had to give him away because times were hard and they just couldn’t afford to keep so many pets. When I met Alan he was still practically a kitten, tiny and timid, and totally adorable. And he still is, having grown into a big, sleek, confident little git who I can’t imagine not being around. He has a white spot the size of a 5p piece on his chest, which I like to call his ‘cravat’ when he sits proudly, like a Victorian gentleman.

Imagine if I’d taken one look at Alan, and said “I don’t want him; he’s black!” I would have been denying myself the pleasure of knowing one of the best cats in the whole world, and I would have been denying a poor, shy little cat his chance at a loving forever home, all based on a superficial prejudice. In that situation, nobody wins.

But why are people so averse to a sooty moggy? The only reasons I can think of are witches and bad luck. Except that this is 2011, not 1611, and we’re pretty much over the whole witchcraft thing (seriously, read The Crucible!). And as for the idea of a black cat crossing your path being bad luck, I’d say I’m living proof that that is complete bunkum: Alan must cross my path at least 10 times a day (in fact, he sometimes careens directly into my path, and my ankles) and I consider myself a generally lucky person. Superstition is ridiculous, and completely outdated, so that leads me to think that people are rejecting black cats simply on aesthetic grounds, which is just plain ridiculous on two counts. Firstly, black cats are gorgeous, and I won’t hear anyone say otherwise. Secondly, and most importantly, it is that sort of superficial attitude that means that it’s not just black cats losing out, but also those who have been scarred and injured in their previous lives.

I could go on for hours about how awesome my Alan is, how he has adopted the footstool as his own kingsize kitty bed, how he goes nuts if he even catches sight of a ribbon, how he chases my boyfriend round the flat every morning, chirruping, and how he welcomes me with a big meow when I come home from work. If I had rejected him, I would never have gotten to know him, and the real tragedy is that if you reject a black cat (or one with a ratty tail or a gammy eye, for that matter) you could just be rejecting the best cat you ever met.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Little Fish

We have really felt the pressure this week. Demand to take in animals has absolutely rocketed and the feeling of impotence - when in one day more animals needed to come in than we have capacity for - hit an all time high (and I can tell you I went home that night feeling deeply demoralised).

There were lots of words of comfort, support and admiration, which always goes a long way to shoring us up. But when I read the RSPCA's internal magazine People Matters last night I ended up feeling deeply insignificant, which I think is a really good leveller.

The magazine essentially celebrates the work we do at the RSPCA, whether it be at local, national or international level. Story after story highlights just how dedicated (and heroic) the staff and volunteers of the organisation are. It also shares stories about the animals we help. It was this particular aspect that made me so emotional for two reasons.

Firstly, the depth and breadth of animal abuse, neglect and suffering is just so unbelievably widespread. When people complain to me about the RSPCA I always have in the back of my mind just how lucky this country is to have a charity that voluntarily dedicates itself to alleviate animal suffering. The RSPCA is not a government organisation and is under no obligation to do any of the tasks it sets itself. I also genuinely believe that the RSPCA does its best, but like anyone or any organisation we can't please everyone all of the time and we can't get it 'right' all of the time; it's what makes us human.

So many countries in this world don't have so much as an animal sanctuary let alone animal welfare laws or even 'policing'. It's when you stop and think about the enormity of this that it makes you realise just how lucky we are in this country to be so progressive and forward thinking and to have the institution that is the RSPCA.

The second reason why I became so emotional was reading the individual stories of animals that had been rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed. The parallels with some of our recent charges made me really stop and think about what we do as a branch. Let me explain.

Some of our recent admissions have endured horrible ordeals like the ones I read about last night. We never dwell on this aspect and simply get on with doing what we do. I realise this is about self preservation, because we need to see beyond the 'crime' and channel our energies into loving and caring for the animals. But let me give you a brief run down of animal stories of late:
1. Jazz and Jago kittens abandoned in a sealed box in someone's garden
2. Bonnie pup dumped in a litter bin
3. Jimmy dog approx 4 years old and kept crated all his life
4. Oscar dog badly beaten throughout his life with lumps and scars all over him and underweight
5. Benny dog left to starve and was half his weight when rescued
6. Mrs Fella cat violently assaulted with a pneumothorax and suspected broken ribs
7. Alfie cat kicked in the face, required reconstructive surgery
8. Bruce cat found stray with a flea infestation and completely shaved
9. Pebbles kitten dumped in a recycling bin
10. Banjo, Bongo and Bosco kittens dumped outside a pet shop with flea infestation and cat flu

Really, I could go on. These 10 represent less than 5% of the animals we have taken in to date this year. The stories never cease to amaze and it made me realise that even if we are limited with what we can do, it really is better than nothing. We really are doing our best with our available resources but I doubt any animal rescue charity ever feels they are doing 'enough'.

What does spur me on, and makes us all feel hope, is when we meet so many wonderful adopters/potential adopters. Today is a classic example. A gentleman is coming all the way from Nottingham to meet our Cassie (pictured above). He had been looking for some time for a new dog and had something very specific in mind and it definitely wasn't a staffie cross! But our write up just leaped out and grabbed him so he's making (or rather has now made) the long journey to see her.

Another wonderful example was the Whittaker family. Dad rang up in the week asking what cats we had that would be suitable for his family home. We had the perfect pair of cheeky 5 month olds (Jazz and Jago). It turns out they lived just metres from their foster home and within 48 hours the furbabies were settled in their new home and updates were posted on our Facebook site! Incredible.

Now this is what makes it all so worthwhile; meeting and learning about the many passionate animal lovers out there. But I confess that this week I am all of a flap. There are just 3 weeks until our fundraiser, Purrfect Party, and we have many tickets left to sell. The anxiety about selling the tickets and making it a success has well and truly set in. It's starting to really trouble me and if we can't sell them we may end up making quite a loss, and I really don't want this to happen.

The event should be so much fun and with £5 from every ticket going directly to the animals it means you can have a really good night out and feel good about it at the same time! Seriously though, £12.50 covers the catering and venue costs and all the artists have given their time for free. Where else can you get a 2 course meal with live entertainment for just £17.50? I know everyone is skint at the moment but I am so desperate to make this a success. If you haven't bought a ticket yet it's really easy to do - just get in touch.

The hard sell may be over but my anxiety will continue for the next 3 weeks!

Friday, 21 October 2011

As it's our Vintage Bazaar on Sunday I'll not be able to put my feet up, gorp at soap omnibuses and write the blog, as I usually do so I'm attempting to reenact Sunday at home today.

The elation of rehoming so many furries last week has just served to unearth dozens of animals needing to come in. This week we will have admitted 10 animals and have even more to come in next week - talk about pressure! I have no idea where we are going to put next week's animals so I'm hoping for a miracle this weekend on animal reserves.

The animals we have admitted this week have been so special that I wanted to tell you all all about them.....

Monday saw the arrival of Hippo, or at least that's what I've dubbed her cos she is a bit of an ugly-bugly! She was found in a litter bin by a member of the public and was barely a day or two old. She is being cared for round the clock by our foster mum Julia and on Sunday we are going to film her and put her on our Facebook page for everyone to see!

She is thankfully, and against all odds, thriving. What a little fighter. We think she must have been the runt of the litter and thought to be ailing so was 'dumped' like a piece of rubbish. It beggars belief really that anyone would think to put a dead or dying baby in a public litter bin, but there you go. Obviously, we are truly grateful to the person who found her for rescuing her and letting us know and we'll be in touch with them to share her progress.

Then, we took in 5 cats that were abandoned in a property when the tenant/owner moved out. It's such a common problem these days that we simply aren't coping with the phenomenon. We have 7 more from a different home but same predicament that need to come in. This time they are living outdoors and the owner is returning to feed them when she can. They have an upturned wheelie bin to shelter in and some are as young as 6-8 months old, but honestly, we just have no spaces left to put them anywhere and it is so frustrating.

We also have to find space for two cats that were adopted from us in 2004. We have the policy that we will take in animals adopted from us if the adopter can no longer care for their animal. This is an urgent admit too, so the pressure really is on to find new homes for our existing cats to create spaces for these newbies in need.

And we have also admitted two cuties - Fred and Tilly - who were dumped in a garden in a sealed box. Yes, a sealed box! They are being fostered by our Catherine, cos of lack of space, and they are adorable. They are approx 5 months old - Fred is a snuggle-cuddle whereas Tilly is a monkey. Catherine said she had to stop Tilly from getting in the bath with her on their first night, so no shortage of confidence. But after her bath she left Tilly playing with the remaining bubbles and she had a ball!

What is really lovely is the next day I went to a local primary school to meet the children at assembly as they had raised £100 for us and after telling them all about our new animals a teacher has offered Fred and Tilly a home! So, we'll see how things progress and keep you posted.

We have a new dog arrival (kind of) this week too. She's been boarded at the kennels we use for the last 3 months because her owner has been in hospital all this time and now can't take her back, so we've been asked to help. She's called Brandy and despite being in kennels so long she's doing remarkably well. Ideally I'd like to place her in a foster home because she's, erm, not much of a looker and has this weird elephant-man like skin folds on her neck and isn't a youngun so I think it will be a while before she finds a forever home and it would be kinder if she was in a home. But, as always, it isn't that easy.

We have one more furry to take in this week and she's a beautiful 5 month old black and white little girl, again abandoned. Sigh.

We need a miracle....I tell you, my idea for a super power of eyes that can neuter pets by just looking at them would come in really handy in this world! I can dream, can't i?!?!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Magic Round-A-Bout

I'm going to be bold. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this week could well prove to be one of the highlights of our year. It's been so uplifting and so rewarding that I think we have all ended the week on a high. And, I don't want the bubble bursting just yet please!

On Monday Smudge the dog went to his forever home and an update on Wednesday let us know that he had well and truly settled in and had already learnt some basic commands! This is a far cry from the nervous, rarely-before walked, matted, underweight dog that entered our care 4 weeks ago.

By Wednesday 7 out of 11 cats in the cattery were reserved (and will all be in their new homes by the end of the weekend!). We also had a kitten in foster care reserved and a viewing booked for kitties Pingu & Daisy - good times!!!

On Saturday Jimmy dog was reserved without ever being promoted for adoption; we have been so lucky to have found a very experienced rescue dog owner for him, so paws crossed for his home visit next week.

But, undoubtedly, what has caused the greatest amount of excitement was Roxy rotti travelling to her new home in North Yorkshire today. Our Catherine took her because we couldn't get a home visit sorted. This meant she had the pleasure of seeing Roxi settle into her new home this afternoon. We all got the news that within minutes of arriving she had settled right on in and was soon crashed out and snoring as if she had always lived there! This really is the stuff of magic for us and simply makes our hearts sing.

And if all that wasn't enough excitement, dogs Ronnie and Benny, who were on 'trial' in their respective potential new homes, have officially been adopted! And, bunnies Hilary and Rose, who have been with us for 11 months have been reserved. What a week for adoptions and reserves! It's so fantastic.

We opened our doors to 3 wonderful new dogs this week. Pip for sure is going to get snapped up with her infectious personality, whilst 9 year old Cassie is just so lovable; she throws herself onto your lap for cuddles. Oscar, however, is looking like he has some medical problems that we will be investigating with x-rays next week. He has been beaten by a previous owner and has scars all over his body that betray his awful past. We remain hopeful that his problems are not insurmountable but we shall just have to see.

And, in my usual style, I have lined up more new cats to admit next week than we probably have spaces for, but as always, I'll worry about it when the time comes. The first to arrive (or rather I'll be collecting on Monday) is a chunky hunk of a cat who is white and ginger with different coloured eyes - he is stunning and ever so good natured. Then we have 5 black and white cats that were abandoned at the same property when the tenant was evicted; all unneutered and unvaccinated so quite a lot of money will need to be spent on getting them ready for adoption (typically this is an average of £200 per cat). I think I've said 'yes' to others but I'm in denial, so not thinking about it!

But, perhaps my personal highlight of the week is the pending adoption of 'Big Fella'. This cat is remarkable, moreover, his foster family are remarkable. Over the last 18 months or so that they have been fostering for us they have repeatedly fallen in love with their charges, but each time they have remained strong and determined not to keep so they could continue with their good work. But, when I delivered Big Fella it became immediately apparent that he and them had an unbelievable, instant connection. He just settled right on in and they all just instantly melted.

Big Fella, or 'Junior' as I like to call him, caused us all a lot of upset and distress when we learnt about his terrible ordeal. He had been assaulted by his previous owner and thrown against a wall. He had injuries to match the harm inflicted on him yet despite his harrowing experience this cat has been consistently loving, affectionate and people-focused.

I say this all the time, but truly, animals are amazing. Their determination to live and love never fails to humble me. The human race could really do with paying closer attention to the creatures we share our planet with and learning from their extraordinary capacities. I just think animals deserve so much more respect than we give them.

I am forever indebted to everyone who helps us with our work - whether you follow our social media sites, donate items to our shops, adopt an animal or attend an event - you all are making such a huge difference to us and the animals. But for today, I would like to say a very special thank you to Emma, Tony and Shealyn for giving Big Fella the life he truly deserves. I know you won't regret this decision and he certainly won't!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

How To Measure Success

At the end of every month every RSPCA branch and HQ-run animal centre has to produce 'SAWA' stats. This stands for 'Summary of Animal Welfare Activity'. Each time, for about an hour or two after collating these figures, I run on a high, or a low, depending on the outcome and then all is forgotten until next time.

I think the reason for short-lived elation, or disappointment, is because our achievements cannot solely be judged on statistics alone. For me and the staff it is about a more intensely personal relationship that we have with our 'work' rather than a broader picture. However, it does get me thinking; how do we measure our success?

I attended a workshop recently concerning the role of a Community Fundraiser. Within this there was a discussion on how to measure 'Key Performance Indicators' (KPIs). So, having seized upon this concept I began to explore what, in theory, would be our KPIs:

Number of animals admitted
Number of animals rehomed
Number of owned animals helped
Success of events
Solvency of the branch

Whilst these are the most obvious and easiest ways of measuring success they are all more complex than they may first appear.

The number of animals admitted is dependent on available space, of which there is always a finite amount, despite what the general public seem to think. At our branch we only have eleven cattery pens and a handful of cat foster carers. We choose not to recruit more foster carers because we cannot afford the additional costs associated with taking in more animals.

To further illustrate, I visited a branch-owned animal centre in South Yorkshire recently. Their finances are so dire that they have had to close kennel and cattery blocks to keep costs down. This alone shows that measuring success on admissions is not as straightforward as it seems, especially if the ultimate goal is to manage budgets to ensure the charity can stay operational for the foreseeable future.

The number of animals rehomed is generally perceived as an accurate reflection of an animal charity's worth. In 2009 we had a record year and found homes for 333 animals. 2010 saw the recession hit us hard and only 257 animals found homes. This year, to date, we have rehomed 197 animals, an average of 22 a month. Not bad? Well, actually, when you consider that July saw the worst rehoming figures of the branch in recent memory - just 9 animals were adopted - it demonstrates how dependent our rehoming figures are on external forces. Factors that affect adoptions can include:

1. The desirability of the animals available for adoption. Recently, we have had a massive influx of black cats and have struggled to find homes for them, simply because of their common colour.
2. The economic climate and its media reportage deeply effects 'consumer confidence' and the affordability of such a luxury as a companion animal.
3. Seasonal trends. The summer and Christmas holiday periods always hit our rehomings hard, this July being a case in point.
4. Our own rehoming policies. For example; we only rehome kittens in pairs (unless there is a cat in the home already) and we insist on large enclosure sizes for rabbits. Whilst these policies are based on best practice, we seem to be quite unique in implementing them. As a result, many potential adopters choose to go elsewhere to quicker and easier fulfil their needs and desires. This may prove disappointing, but our conscience won't permit us to compromise on an animal's welfare, especially after they have been rescued by an RSPCA inspector in the first place (98% of animals we admit are from RSPCA generated sources).

The number of owned animals helped is again directly related to the financial buoyancy of the charity. Over the last few years we have been very proactive in delivering community pet health clinics, but this year we have not had the money to run them and our budget has been a mere £300 a month for such activities. We share the money between us and the local inspectorate, effectively halving this monthly allowance. From that we choose to offer a maximum of £50 a time to owners of animals with immediate needs, such as euthanasia or critical vet attention.

The success of events is also a very difficult one to assess, as we have learnt to our peril this summer. Every experienced fundraiser has felt the pain and frustration of organising an outdoor event and then watching it ruined by an uninvited and persistent raincloud. This year's summer washout has affected us to the tune of £3,000, a vast sum of money that we are desperately trying to recoup with more events.

Finally, the Solvency of the branch is particularly difficult to quantify because it depends so much on public support and legacies. We have really struggled over the last few years to juggle animal activity levels against unpredictable income. It is a challenge we continually grapple with and, if the financial situation doesn’t improve soon, we will have to face further significant cuts to our work.

So, having reviewed all the KPIs and considered all the pitfalls, how do we go about measuring our success? If I think about what motivates us as individuals it really is quite simple: a successful outcome for each individual animal.

There are just too many to highlight but dogs like Benny; a collie cross who was rescued weighing just 9kgs, now weighs over 16kgs, is receiving all the love in the world in his foster home and is receiving weekly hydrotherapy sessions to help with his muscle wastage. For us, it is outcomes like this that make us realise how worthwhile our work really is.

It does, however, mean that when we don't succeed in overturning the neglect and suffering an animal has experienced we often take it exceptionally hard. The loss this year of Sian, Bilbo and Morag are, thankfully rare, examples of animals we had to put to sleep, despite pouring all our hearts and efforts into trying to 'fix' their problems. At times like these, we can’t help but feel a sense of incredible failure and helplessness, as well as renewed distress towards the cruelty or misfortune that has conspired to put such beautiful creatures into these terrible situations. And yet, it is only through a passionate focus on each individual furry that we can truly measure our success, and that success is something that is felt deep down, beyond the graphs and statistics. I think if we did not have such compassion for each and every animal (and yes, we do pick favourites!) then we perhaps shouldn't be here at all.

With thanks to Mr D for making this happen x

Monday, 3 October 2011

Marathon Effort

This week sees the return of the Liverpool Marathon for the first time in years. Jess, a much-loved friend of the branch, is running it in aid of us! This will be Jess' first ever marathon, which makes it all the more wonderful that she has chosen to run for our furries.

I truly admire anyone who has the willpower to commit to things like diets, training, discipline - they are all things that completely evade me. So, please, join me in showing Jess how amazing her feat is and donate by either:

Text - 'PAWS11' plus your chosen amount up to £10 to 70070

or via

Thank you Jess for being so brave! And thanks to everyone who sponsors her - you know it really does make a difference to our animals' lives.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Favourite image of the week

This piccie is of two of a litter of eight puppies rescued a couple of weeks ago by an RSPCA inspector. Four went to the Warrington Branch and we had the other four. We've found homes for all of ours, and here is a piccie of two of the lucky ones.

Now tell me this isn't adorable! They are crossed with Doberman and are going to be big! They are only 8 weeks old this week!

Monday, 26 September 2011


Cleopatra came home from the vets last Thursday afternoon, seemingly over the worst of the gut stasis. She perked up once back in her familiar environs and seemed to be doing well until yesterday afternoon.

Cleopatra had been with us since the 7th October last year. I remember the day she came into our care so well because we had travelled all the way to North Yorkshire to collect her. We had gone with the intention of collecting 20 rabbits and guinea pigs from a very large multiple animal case and came back with 27 instead. They were all what we call 'case animals'; having been seized from the owner for neglect with a view to prosecution.

There were a total of 433 animals removed from the one home; Cleopatra being one. She was a standard Rex of show quality, we know this because we had a ring removed from her leg. What I know even more was what a wonderful rabbit she was - elegant, intelligent and able to run rings round anyone.

When the case was eventually concluded we were able to place her up for adoption. She had lots of interest in her but what followed was a number of failed bonding attempts, seemingly she was too used to having been kept in solitary confinement and perhaps scarred from being used (and abused) for breeding.

Cleopatra settled in really well to 'our place' and was genuinely a happy rabbit who had almost everything a forever home could give her. She ate for Britain and did golf-ball sized poops (they were so large that they really caught our attention!) and so when she eased up on her eating last week we knew she wasn't well in an instant.

Today, we took her back to the vets. She had lost more than 10% of her body weight in just a matter of days. Upon examination a mass in her abdomen was found; most likely a tumour. The only decision was taken.

I opted out of being with her whilst they put her to sleep. Selfish, I know, but I just couldn't face it. My sadness for her imminent loss was just too much for me to cope with. I gave her hugs and kisses goodbye but just couldn't stay with her. (To be honest, she wasn't in a good way so I don't think it would've made much difference to her.)

I loved that rabbit and so did many others of us at the branch. But, I am at peace with her passing because I know we gave her a life worth living. I just feel terribly sad by her loss.

It is for her and all the other rabbits that are kept in inferior conditions in homes up and down this country that we will continue to champion the highest rabbit welfare standards that we can. We don't have them for no reason, so please, I urge you to ask yourself - does your rabbit have a life worth living? Can it travel up to 5 miles a day should s/he choose? If not, please take a moment to learn more about a rabbit's needs.

(Thank you to Darlington and Durham RSPCA branches for all their support.)