Sunday, 19 February 2012

Pork Life

The images above represent the highlights of our week. It really has been an exciting one, yes, I used the word 'exciting'! We've seen tremendous acts of kindness and generosity and the arrival of newborn babies, so let me tell you all about it....

We found out on Monday that we had enough money to pay for Humphrey's operation; the relief was enormous, because we had to go ahead with the op the Friday before because the surgeon was unavailable for the following two weeks. It was a huge gamble and one I didn't care to think of the consequences of if we failed to raise the funds. But the miracle I had been hoping for came true and to each and every person who donated - thank you ever so much for your compassion and kindness. Humphrey is well on the way to a full recovery and his cheeky spirit continues to shine through.

There was another miracle I was really hoping for, and that was a home for our Brandy dog (above). She was the main feature of an earlier two part blog post - the ones that saw me in plenty of hot water for accusing some of our animals of being ugly! (I'm sorry, I'm just trying to stifle a laugh whilst hearing the words of our trustee Gilly ringing in my ears, "Naughty Susie!" Tee hee.)

Anyway, the blog posting was shared on Facebook, which was in turn shared by our supporters amongst their friends. Then, something remarkable happened. A couple in Poole in Dorset read the blog and fell in love with Brandy and wanted to offer her a hope. We began exchanges of emails and phone calls and texts and now, a week on Saturday, Brandy will be meeting her new mum and dad!

We've got the easy side of the bargain, we are going to meet them in the Midlands, but they are making a 4/5 hour journey just to get that far! Thankfully they have family in the area so we can meet up there. Brandy deserves this home more than anything else so we are keeping everything crossed that it works out for her next Saturday. She just wants cuddles and a nice warm rug/carpet to lie on, oh, and lots of tennis balls! She lurves her tennis balls.

This week has seen a continuation of our cat rehoming success. So much so that one of the RSPCA Officers brought me cakes to say thank you for making her life so easy! This is because each time she has rung me to ask if we can take in a cat I've said yes. It's so nice to be able to say 'yes' all the time, and I know our run of success will inevitably come to an end soon but for now we are loving it and the cakes - thanks Gina! And thank you to everyone who is coming to us for a new furry friend because without you we couldn't amke the difference that we are.

Of our admissions this week are two delightful boys we've named Timmy and Tommy. Their story is remarkable and so are their personalities and so I'm really hoping they will be reserved this weekend......

The boys owners abandoned them when they moved out. They lived on the streets for a while but stuck together, which in itself is quite remarkable but they really are best buds. When the RSPCA got called to the abandonment there were actually three cats. They were all such good friends that everyone simply assumed they were from the same home. They were collected and taken to the RSPCA vets for neutering only to discover that the third cat had a microchip. The registered owner was contacted, much to their relief, and it transpired that she had been lost for some time. It seems that the boys must have befriended her and they were all looking out for each other whilst living on the streets. An ecstatic owner was united with their cat and our 8 admissions went down to 7, much to my relief!

And they boys? Well, they are just awesome characters and I really hope they get snapped up very soon. But what a remarkable story and what remarkable cats.

To finish the week off what better than the arrival of baby pork! They have to be the biggest piglets ever, but I can assure you they were born overnight Fri/Sat and the pics above were taken at noon on Saturday. They have their umbilical chords attached too, so they are just massive bubs. The pic of mum above was taken Tuesday this week and quite how she was even moving around is beyond me because on Tuesday she was fit to burst. Poor Petina!

So, what it also means is that our Hannah has to put her money where her mouth is, because the day we took all these beautiful fire rescued animals in she promised me that she would make it her personal mission to rehome the guinea pigs and raise us funds to help pay towards their care. Ha! Well, the time has come Hannah!

To be fair she began this a couple of weeks back with her Diary of an RSPCA Guinea Pig blog but yesterday, with the first of the babies arriving, Hannah donned her running shoes and went training in a hail storm! Bonkers? Yes, quite probably, but you see when Hannah sets her mind to something failure is not an option. So, to raise the money we need to pay for the extra care costs of the fire animals she is running a Half Marathon in Liverpoool on 17th March, hence training in silly weather. You can read more about her endeavours and our extra care costs here and it just so happens you can sponsor her at the same time too!

And if any of you feel inspired by our work or Hannah's endeavours then maybe you would like to consider joining our team on Sat 12th May to abseil down Leasowe Lighthouse on The Wirral. This is a once in a life-time opportunity for courageous, intrepid adventurers and you only have to raise £50 in sponsorship and the registration fee is just £15. If you are up for the challenge and would like more info please get in touch at:

I've got a good week to look forward to, because not only have the first of the guinea pig babiesarrived but the baby bunnies born on the night of the fire are now running around looking very cute pom-poms! Sadly, only two of the original seven have survived but what we do have is one crossed with a Great Dane; she is so massive! I can't wait to play, erm, I mean look after the babies ;o)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Can You Love An Ugly?: Part Two

Rabbits. Well, those of you who know me know that I am fanatical about rabbits' but even my rose-tinted spectacles cannot hide the truth that you get ugly-bugly bunnies too.

Ariadne, the albino lionhead, is a typical example of the type of rabbit that gets a raw deal. The last albino we had was with us for about 18 months, despite featuring in local and national advertising campaigns. In the end a friend of mine adopted him, but if she hadn't I can guarantee Beano would still be with us now.

People just don't like albino animals, seemingly finding them odd and creepy looking. When I adopted an albino rat some years ago I coined the phrase 'jam eyes' and somehow this made her instantly less freaky.

I remember the third rabbit I ever adopted (some 10/11 years ago). I went along to a shelter and simply said I wanted the rabbit they were finding hardest to rehome. They pointed out a little Netherland Dwarf with jam eyes and they told me people found his eyes 'demonic looking' - truly! So, he came straight home with us and we named him Arthur (Half-A) cos he was the size of half a rabbit. His personality was wonderful and a true indication as to why we should look beyond the shell.

Ariadne has only recently arrived, and so her journey with us has only just begun and will definitely be a long one. On the plus side, in most instances we give our rabbits a better life than what they came from. In fact, I remember last year the national RSPCA's inspection officer remarking that the quality of life we give our rabbits is better than the average home. What a reassuring commendation to receive. But the truth is, for every rabbit that stays with us long-term, it is one less that we can help.

Ariadne was kept in a baron 3ft hutch along with two other rabbits. There was nothing to absorb the urine and she was stained yellow and the floor beneath the hutch was soaking wet with urine. We have 3 other rabbits from the same home and whilst they are young, healthy and sociable we know their looks will prevent them from being rehomed.

Danni, pictured middle, isn't ugly but her current moulting is making her look moth-eaten, and believe it or not this will put people off from wanting her. She can also be quite shy, so isn't very good at selling herself. We have the same problem with the cats; if they aren't forthcoming with visitors they reduce their chances of finding homes so much. We have a new cat called Norris that no-one has seen yet. He is a bit of a hulkling, frightened, ugly-bugly so we'll see if he settles in before making any decisions about where he would better off. If we put him in a foster home that will further reduce his chances of being adopted so for now we are just keeping an eye on him.

Betty, pictured bottom, really is an ugly-Betty. She has come from the same rescue as Danni and is most likely related to her, but she truly fell out of the ugly tree. To make matters worse she is really quite timid. Poor Betty.

Like all the animal shelters we struggle to rehome rabbits. There truly aren't enough good homes out there let alone for the more challenging rabbits. Invariably our circle of friends end up adopting them but at the moment we are all up to maximum capacity.

I've received criticism this week for our rehoming policy on rabbits; namely that we won't allow them to travel more than 1.5 hours to a new home. I know that this is contrary to many other shelters but our decision to do this went to board level where it was unanimously agreed to implement this limit. The reason? Because they are such highly strung creatures that when placed under prolonged periods of distress it can result in jeopardising their health.

Few people know that rabbits can go into something called gut stasis from not eating and pooping and die within as short a time frame as 12-24 hours. Stress can induce this condition, so by placing this time limit of 1.5hours we feel we are doing our best to safe-guard a rabbit's well-being.

We take quite a number of rabbits from the Yorkshire region and each time they arrive it is a tense waiting game to see if they start eating and defecating whilst they settle in. Just in the last week two rabbits have required syringe feeding to get them going again, so you see it really isn't a random rule.

And of course by keeping it within 1.5hours it means that we can offer a bespoke service to the adopter, by helping with any support needs they may require. For example, some months after adoption Herbert bunny required injectable antibiotics. His adopters were struggling with the injections so I travelled a two-hour round trip to go and support them in their home. This paid off and Herbert is back to full health again. I don't know many other shelters that offer this level of after-care but what I can assure you is that our policies are based on ensuring the best outcome for our animals.

Please open your heart to an ugly-bugly this Valentine's Day.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Can you love an ugly?

It seems to me that we really are a nation preoccupied with aesthetics; if it ain’t cute and pretty then we just aren’t interested. At least, that’s how it seems from an animal adoption point of view because any animal that we try to rehome, whether cat, dog, rabbit or guinea pig if it is a
bit on the aesthetically challenged side they will wait months to find a home they can call their own.

Of course there is the extreme of being so ugly that they are deemed cute, like our British Bulldog Lola. But generally, if it ain’t ‘priddy’ they’re gonna get left on the shelf. So, in the run up to Valentine’s Day I want to share some overlooked ugly-buglies that are lonely and looking for
love. So, I ask you; can you love an ugly?

First to share with you is brindle and white staffie Brandy. She has been with us for months now with not even one phone call or email enquiring about her. Brindle staffs are, in our experience, the hardest dogs to rehome. For Brandy it is made all the more worse because she is going on 9 and she has a congenital skin fold on her neck that makes her look even more unattractive.

Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never really taken to Brandy; that was until yesterday. She came into our office for some respite from the kennels (she copes so well in them that we hadn’t considered doing this before) but one of the staff felt sorry for her so popped her in the van and drove her down.

Just seeing the stairs set her off with excitement. The feeling of warmth and the touch of carpet turned this normally placid, self-contained girl into a barrel of excitement and affection. We saw a side to Brandy we had never seen before and we instantly fell smitten. I’ll confess it brought me to tears seeing how different and so very happy she was from such a simple experience. She wanted cuddles and fusses and was so very affectionate. And she wanted a chew; something she’s always ignored in kennels.

It seems that Brandy has been truly hiding her light under a bushel all this time; quite possibly grieving for the loss of her former loving home/owner. Brandy came into our care some 3 months ago but she had spent 3 months already by that time in kennels on emergency boarding, paid for by Social Services (her owner went into hospital and never came out). Really, when you think about it, you can’t begin to imagine what she must have been going through all this time having lost her life as she knew it and now spending endless days, weeks and months incarcerated in a kennel.

The fact Brandy copes so well in kennels demonstrates what a special dog she is, but the reality is she’ll be lucky if she finds a home in another 6 month’s time because nobody wants an ‘ugly’. I truly hope I am proven wrong. And I can reassure everyone that Brandy will not be put to sleep just because she can’t find a home; she will be with us for as long as she needs us.

In reality Brandy is a victim of over breeding and our culture obsessed with image and aesthetics. It is such a shame to see this lonely heart breaking. I hope more than anything she gets to spend her remaining years knowing what love is once again.
You can see a video of Brandy playing at:

Saturday, 4 February 2012

In the words of Frank Sidebottom - 'BLIMEY!'

Blimey indeed! What an incredible week it has been for RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch and some of our neighbouring branches too. You know it's a bad one if by Monday evening I'm in a state worry and requiring a 'pep talk' from husband. He always knows just the right thing to say and this time it was the simple words of: "that's what you are there for" that did the trick. So, let me tell you all about it.

It all started last Friday when a Garden Centre in Royton, Oldham went up in flames and several hundred animals tragically perished in the fire. My counterpart at the Bury and Oldham branch, Mandy, rallied together her troops and they went in and rescued all the surviving animals. The Rochdale branch were soon on scene too and between them all they did the most heroic job of rescuing and caring for the very many animals that came out unscathed - and there were mighty many.

It wasn't until the following morning, when the extent of everything became clear, I got in touch to offer spaces to take in guinea pigs. We just couldn't take in any more rabbits because we were expecting 6 new arrivals but wanted to help out as much as we could and guinea pigs were our only option.

When the animals were signed over to the RSPCA on Monday we went up to collect just 4 guinea pigs. I was in my car (we can only afford one work vehicle) and I just had space on my back seat for 3 carriers. Ha! Well, best laid plans 'and all that' resulted in us coming away with far more than we could realistically fit in the car:

4 heavily pregnant adolescent guinea pigs
2 individual male guinea pigs

1 mummy bunny and her 4 babies that she gave to birth to during her rescue

1 female grey lionhead

We had to stack carriers on top off one another and balance on our knees, and as we were driving along a bun and piggy that had been rescued living together had a big fight and my colleague had to contend with the addition of a bunny in her coat as we drove for an hour. It was really quite a calamitous situation but we all made it unscathed.

Our Hannah is fostering one of the adolescent mummy pigs and you can check out why at her 'Diary of an RSPCA Guinea Pig' http://http// It is an absolutely fascinating insight into the world of guinea pigs and check out the 'popcorning' link on day 3 - it's magic stuff!

So, I suppose to most people this doesn't sound like a particularly large amount, but with us already being up to capacity, and that small matter of actually not having our own centre, it immediately puts a whacking great pressure on our limited resources. And let's not forget, 12 are soon going to turn into 20+++. BLIMEY!

It wasn't helped by the fact that in the previous week I had agreed to take in 6 other RSPCA rescued rabbits: 4 from a local welfare case, 1 from South Yorkshire and 1 from Hull. The panic just hit straight away that fateful Monday but my beloved Hannah and Gilly responded in true fashion by setting about raising funds. Hannah is going to run a half marathon in March and Gilly stumped up £200. How great are they? But when you factor that each rabbit actually costs an average of £400 to rehabilitate and rehome you can see why they were so quick to act and me to panic. In absolute basic terms it costs £2 per rabbit/guinea pig a day. So if we admit 12 (and counting) from the fire that's £24 a day extra we have to find, immediately. So, yes, I'm stressed.

If all that wasn't sufficient excitement we've admitted so many new cats this week too:

Peter, Norton, Maddy, Dotty, Donny, Danny, Charles, Sammi, Leoni - in one day alone I had to shuttle 5 into the cattery. This has only possible because of the fantastic run on adoptions and the support we've received from two foster carers helping us to bring round some timid rescue cats in their homes. We've admitted 3 more pups today and there are still 4 more cats to come in - I have to find the space on Monday, ho-hum!

by Wednesday we were all exhausted and the collation of our end of month animal activity stats demonstrated exactly why we have been so rushed off our feet for the last month. I am so proud and elated to share that we rehomed a phenomenal 34 animals in January: 26 cats/kits, 4 dogs and 4 rabbits. Just to put that into perspective, we typically rehome around 20-25 per month. When you factor in that for each animal coming into the branch they need:

  • collecting from their point of rescue and/or RSPCA clinic

  • delivering to the cattery/kennels/foster home

  • usually at least 2 vet appts for treatment, vaccs, neuter etc

  • and then, when you take into consideration the geographical logistics of our animals being in so many places because we don't have a centre, it's no wonder we are all shattered and our petrol costs are so high!

Now I'll be the first to admit we could just do with a quiet week to have a bit of a 'breather', it is fantastic the fact that we are helping so many animals and with so little.

The images above are some of my highlights of the week. Perhaps my two favourites are of Lulu rotti dog and Sadie staffie. Lulu is going to her new home tomorrow after never even being up for adoption! Our friends at SooZoo told clients about her pending arrival and let's just say it was all just meant to be! For Sadie it is a similar triumph and her reserve today was noted with a 'she's meant to be ours and she was brilliant with the children and even put the brakes on around them'. Oh, and I nearly forgot about Gilbert! He was reunited with his owner 7 days afer he was rescued by an RSPCA inspector. These things just never happen and it is all the more miraculous because he didn't have a microchip.

We are all ending the week happy and exhausted and we will start all over again on Monday with a renewed vigour to to help the arrivals. For now we are hoping for a peaceful weekend a lottery windfall.