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.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Our 50th Birthday & why we need your support

This December our branch will be 50 years old. Many of you will be reading this thinking: ‘hold on the RSPCA has been going for hundreds of years!’ Well that is true, the National RSPCA was founded in 1824 (a mere 189 years old!) but our charity is an independent and entirely separate one established in 1963. The National RSPCA employ inspectors, runs the emergency rescue line and spearheads National animal welfare campaigns amongst a myriad of other roles.

Our branch on the other hand focuses on rehoming animals that are rescued by National RSPCA inspectors via the emergency rescue line from cruelty, neglect and abandonment. We also (when we can afford to) host chipping and neutering events for people in the local area on low incomes. It costs us £30,000 a month to run our branch and we raise all our own funds from the public. This is why when times get tough in society they get really tough for us.

Earlier this year we were facing the real possibility of closing. Donations and legacies are down whilst the demand on us to take in animals is rocketing. Obviously, when you decide as a charity to funnel your limited resources to helping the most abused and mistreated animals in our society you have to be prepared for the massive financial burden. We don’t choose which animals we get, so we never know what will walk, hop or scurry through the door next! We rarely get animals that are healthy enough to go straight up for adoption (behaviourally or medically).  Dogs often need months of behaviour modification training. This year alone we have had one dog terrified of leads and another so anxious she would constantly jump 6ft into the air (Tilly pictured below, now ready for rehoming after lots of hard work by the team).


Often we have cats that have had little socialisation with people (particularly from multiple cat households), lots of cats that need time in foster homes or ones that are so poorly from the abuse they have received it takes around-the-clock care to bring them back from the brink (particularly the case when new born kittens are abandoned without mothers). We have taken in a heck of a lot of starved and emaciated animals that take considerable time and effort to try and bring back to health.

So whilst we are extremely happy to be celebrating 50 years of the wonderful work our past and present teams do at the same time we have no idea if we’ll be around for another 5 years, let alone 50. However, we never rest! We have two events coming up that we hope will raise us lots of money and make our charity more secure, even if just for the short term. As with all our events they will be vegetarian but there’s vegan options too.

This Saturday we have our Strictly Tea Dance event in Chorlton!

Come along for a professional Waltz dance lesson (bad dancers welcome!) followed by a scrummy Afternoon Tea, fabulous raffle and much more!

It’s £12 per ticket which you can buy via Paypal, cheque or in person at our Chorlton charity shop on Wilbraham Road. Just email or call 0161 882 0680 for more info.

Our biggest event of the year is our Purrfect Party III! This is the 3rd year we will be hitting the Worsley Court House for a delicious two-course supper buffet (vegetarian & vegan), live music, entertainment, bar, quiz, auction and raffle. It’s a great chance to come along and meet our team, volunteers, adopters and other passionate animal lovers.

Tickets are £20 which you can buy online, via Paypal, cheque or in person at our Chorlton charity shop on Wilbraham Road. Just email or call 0161 882 0680 for more info.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Guest blog post: Heroics for real heroes

Dave Hartley
This week we feature a guest blog post by Dave Hartley, volunteer & trustee for our branch. It's the 5 day countdown until our Imperial War Museum Zipslide Challenge on Saturday and here are his thoughts......

In my other guise as a cruelty-fighting animal welfare vigilante (hah!), I spend a lot of time acting as a trustee and volunteer for the Manchester & Salford RSPCA. I don't say that to brag - over the past couple of years its become an important part of who I am and a vital part in shaping my philosophies on the world in general (click to read the quarterly newsletters I put together for the branch). And those philosophies extend far beyond my opinions on animal welfare; working just one event with the M&S RSPCA can expose you to sudden truths of economic hardship, capitalist mythmaking, human depravity and uncharitable ideologies, to name but a few of the worst illuminations. On the flipside, this particular strand of the RSPCA features some of the most brilliant examples of human beings I'm ever likely to come across, who devote entire planet-fulls of compassion, energy and time into the restoration of life and wellbeing for the most neglected, unfortunate and bewildered animals our country has had the bad grace to spit out and abandon. My input is but a tiny scratch in a deep canyon of compassion.

So yes, I'm trying to raise some money. We have this event coming up on Saturday; a Zipwire Challenge from the top of the Imperial War Museum in Salford. Its going to a be a laugh. I'm not too bothered by heights and I like to pretend I'm James Bond from time to time, so I think I'm going to enjoy myself. Zip, hip, whoopee. But the whole point of the event is to get as many people doing it as possible and get them all raising money for the charity.

Here's my page:

Primarily, the focus here is on Buster. Buster was a staffordshire bull terrier who was horrifically abused in one of those stories that turns your world upside down for a moment and leaves you dangling. I can't go into the details because its an ongoing legal situation, but you can see from his injuries it was bad. Very bad. One of those in which I end up feeling no anger towards the perpetrators, just vast, swelling oceans of sadness. And then three times that for Buster himself.

Buster didn't survive. He died under anesthetic while undergoing an operation which he was fully expected to live through. His rehabilitation had already started and he was the most wonderfully affectionate and friendly soul, despite everything life had thrown at him. His death hit everyone hard, but it devastated the branch's staff the most. We only have three full-time members of staff working with the animals (yes three - we can't afford any more, even on mimimum wage), and each had taken to Buster in their own way since meeting him.

But there was no time to dwell for this trio; in came a group of newborn kittens needing to be hand-reared, two rabbits fell seriously ill, a dog with behavioural issues arrived to fill the space Buster left behind. Meanwhile, there's a zipsilde event to organise, angry phonecalls to answer, paperwork, filing, shop accounts, contracts etc etc and on and on. And somehow these three storming ladies find time to breathe.

So this zipslide thing isn't just for the vague memory of Buster, nor is it about throwing myself off a tall building for cheap thrills. Its about giving a nod of appreciation. Its about realising that the odd £5 given to the RSPCA only amounts two or three fewer chocolate bars for you, and a world of weight lifted momentarily from the shoulders of these actual superheroes. So if you can chuck some money in the pot, please do. Its wrongheaded to think of the RSPCA as just some soft and lovely land where liberal hippies prance around patting cats heads and cuddling bunnies. Its brutal, heartbreaking, relentless hell and this, really, is the least any of us can do.

Donate directly via the JustGiving link above, or text any amount from as low as £1 and the text: BARK70 to 70700. Big thanks in advance, you superstars.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Autumn 2013 Newsletter

Autumn 2013 Newsletter for

Feel-good Summer

The summer months can sometimes be a bit tricky for us in the search for potential forever homes for our animals. This is the season of school’s out, beach holidays and lazy days in the park and new pets don’t always fit into the schedule. The July heatwave all but halted adoptions for three weeks – perhaps everyone was just too surprised that we were having a decent summer for once! Despite this, our dedication to the cause has shone through and we are delighted to report that we have found homes for 92 animals over the course of May, June & July after admitting 125.

We’ve parted company with some cracking animals over the past few months including Blanche, our long-stay giant rabbit, Melvin; a cheeky Staffie cross (pictured), and who can forget our pair of neglected Dobermans Roxy & Bella, now living in the beautiful Nottinghamshire countryside.

We also managed to have a bit of fun ourselves. We celebrated our 50thanniversary as a registered charity with a party for all our staff and volunteers in June, and in May we held our first Vintage Tea Party to great success. We all dressed up in our finest 1940s gear and ate far, far too much cake than is healthy – but it doesn’t matter while we are enjoying ourselves and raising funds at the same time!

The problem is we’ve now got the taste for partying, so the emphasis remains on fun for our forthcoming autumn fundraisers. We’ve got a boozy adults-only Pirate Party in September, a Strictly-style tea dance in November as well as our third Purrfect Party gala which will be our official 50th birthday celebration. All these events are guaranteed to be worth booking in for - details at the end of the newsletter.

Dispatches from a volunteer

Local writer and volunteer David Hartley reports on his experience playing shop at the Didsbury shop Book Day events...

As a writer, many people assume that I read a lot and have an unhealthy obsession with books. Well they’re right: I have more books in the house than shelf space and a ‘to read’ pile which is threatening to break a hole in the ceiling. So when Tom the manager of the Didsbury RSPCA shop asked if I wanted to help out at their monthly Book Day event, I leapt at the chance.

Half the battle with running a charity shop is giving people a reason to come through the front door in the first place -beyond their own sense of compassion of course. A charity shop, after all, is just a shop, and it has to play the retail game. It has targets to meet, staff to pay, displays to create and quality stock to source. But a lot of people don’t expect much from charity shops beyond so special, focussed event days such as Book Day are helpful for creating a bit more interest.

On this Book Day we were blessed with sunshine so we created an outdoor table display with a magnificent 1980s typewriter as a centrepiece. I felt like a contestant on The Apprentice: I had to turn a profit; I had to sell that typewriter!

So we kept the tables stocked and I put my bookworm knowledge to good use for once and made displays based on what I thought might sell. And it worked: passersby stopped to browse the table, many more came in to the shop itself and flicked through the clothes and shoes and bric-a-brac.

And that is all it takes. Charity shops trade on intrigue: what hidden gems at bargain prices could be stashed away on the next shelf or rail? In normal high street shops you always kind of know what you are getting, but in a charity shop, who knows what you’ll uncover? It’s like pure, thrilling shopping! All people need is an excuse to stop and pop in and then the intrigue gets them.

We smashed our target. Obliterated it. Half of that might have been me stocking up on sci-fi, but hey, it’s all good money! But best of all? We managed to shift that typewriter.

Didsbury shop Book Days take place on the first Saturday of every month. Keen reader? Get down to one to find some proper booky bargains!

Canine enrichment

After a fantastic appeal on our Facebook page we were able to raise enough funds to buy our dogs some enrichment equipment for the kennels. It is vital that a dog in rehabilitation with us is given the physical and mental stimulation it needs. Kennels can be stressful spaces, especially for the most vulnerable canines we take into our care.

Thanks to kind donations and generous purchases from our supporters our dogs are now the lucky recipients of a paddling pool, a sand pit, a jumping platform, a see-saw and lots of new toys for our dogs to enjoy. Here’s Tyson demonstrating the fun you can have with a sand pit...

We are always coming up with new ideas to keep the kennel enrichment high. We’d love for any budding gardeners out there to come down to the kennels and plant out some tubs and pots of chamomile and lavender to keep the place smelling good, and we’d love donations of unwanted soup ladles to fill with treats and hang in the cages. If you can help with any of this, just drop us an email

Superhero Fundraiser

Superstar volunteer Shealyn Horrocks has been helping out at branch events for four years now, despite the fact that she has only just turned fourteen. And she doesn’t escape from her duties at home either because she helps out her mum as a foster carer for some of our most vulnerable cats.

Always cheerful and willing to get stuck in, Shealyn has been a real asset to the branch and we hope she’ll continue to volunteer with us for as long as possible.

In the meantime, Shealyn is braving the Imperial War Museum Zipwire Challenge and raising money for us in the process. If you would like to cheer her on by sponsoring her, you can do just that on her Just Giving page:

If you are as brave as Shealyn and want to join in the fun we still have spaces remaining for the Zipwire. Give us a call on 0161 882 0680 or email

Upcoming Events
Sat 21st Sept
Pirate Parrrty
The Kings Arms, Salford

Sat 13th Oct
Zip Wire Challenge
Imperial War Museum North
Sat 9th Nov
A Very British Tea Dance
St. Werburgh’s Church
Sat 23rd Nov
Purrfect Party Gala
Worsley Court House

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Treasured Soul

The last few weeks have been really tough for me, the staff and the volunteers who work hands-on with the animals. We have experienced first hand the dark, disturbing side of this society. Sometimes it takes its toll and you end up clinging to the hope of a quiet week, but with staff and volunteers on their holidays, the relentless influx of new arrivals and weekly events to organise the micro-world of RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch has felt nothing short of chaotic of late. 

This week has been the worst in a long time. It has been traumatic. I do not use that word lightly, it really has been traumatising. One incident was so bad that those of us involved cannot talk about it. I really didn't things could get much worse after this event, but indeed they did and it is this news that I share today, not as a form of cathartic release akin to therapy, but in order to celebrate, commemorate and above all remember him and why we do what we do.

Some of you may follow us on Twitter or Facebook and be familiar with the story of our SBT case dog who was physically abused by the hands of his owners. We still need to keep the details vague to protect the investigative process but also because the full story is so horrific and disturbing. We hadn't even shared his name in public until now because we didn't want to do anything to jeopardise his case. He was, however, signed over, which means he was released by his owner to the care of the RSPCA so he could receive all the treatment that he needed and eventually be rehomed.

When Buster was being picked up to be transported to our care I got a call from the animal collection driver. He was concerned about whether I was aware of the extent of Buster's injuries. I told him what I knew and it turned out that it was very different to reality; Buster was in a revolting state as a result of horrific injuries inflicted to his body and face. When we greeted him at our kennels he became dubbed 'our battered beefcake'. I know this sounds absurd but humour often creeps in to lighten the darkness and help us to cope.

Buster was one of those animals who was an instant hit with anyone and everyone he met. He was an animal that defied logic and reason. After all the suffering he had experienced he should have been a cowering mess or an aggressor. Buster was neither; he just seemed so happy that you got the sense that he was relieved to be away from his past and that he knew he was somewhere loving and safe.

Buster wounds were as a result of being assaulted by members of the family he lived with and then being left without treatment for them. The attacks had penetrated deeply, causing extensive injury to the skin, infection and damage to the hair follicles. We were quite convinced that he'd be left bald where he'd been hurt, but after expert veterinary care we were delighted to see some sporadic hairs sprouting; there was hope that he wouldn't have to wear the scars for life.

By the beginning of the week Buster's skin was looking really good. A trip to the vets confirmed he was well enough to start his course of vaccinations and be castrated. This was a good day because it meant it was time to get cracking with finding him a new forever home. This also meant that he could spend Saturday out of the kennels, visiting our colleagues at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Stockport's Pets at Home store.

The idea of being able to put him up for adoption within 48 hours was an exciting prospect, especially because we thought Buster would take much longer to physically heal than he did. He was so good with his daily application of cream, never once flinching or protesting. He'd often surprise us in the early days by rolling around on his scabbing body, having a right good wriggle and a rub. He just never seemed overly concerned by his injuries, instead just preoccupied with happiness and the company he now kept.

You may have figured out by now that I am talking about Buster in the past tense. This is because something very rare and unpreventable happened to Buster whilst he was under anaesthetic being castrated. His heart stopped. He was a healthy, strapping lad but his heart stopped. The veterinary team tried for 20 minutes to resuscitate him but despite their tremendous effort he died.

Buster's story wasn't supposed to end this way, we wanted a Disney-style happy ever after. He was a very precious and treasured soul and he deserved a different ending to this. But no-one is to blame, instead all we can do is celebrate his valour, his infectious appetite for life and his wonderfully loving nature.

It has taken some time for us to accept his loss and to be able to talk about it publicly. But even then I think we'd rather you didn't say anything the next time we see you. Somethings just don't need saying. But I know that we all felt honoured to have met him, looked after him and loved him and to the day we die I suspect none of us will ever forget Buster. 

Buster enjoying a Kong stuffed with treats. (Our last picture taken of him.)

Thank you to everyone who kindly donated in his name; your gifts continue to be shared with many more dogs, including the three we admitted at the end of the week: Meg, Bailey and Tilly. What's so sad is that there is never a shortage of neglected and abused animals needing our care. All we can do is keep getting back up, dusting ourselves down and get on with the job of loving these beautiful animals. This is a privilege to be able to do and I thank you all for enabling us to do it.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sickening crimes

For the second week in a row we have seen animal cruelty on a level that has reduced us to tears and preoccupied our every waking thoughts. Some of you will have seen images of our one of the animals on our Facebook page. We've kept the details of the crime deliberately vague so as to not jeopardise investigations but also because of how utterly distressing it is. When I told one dear friend about the dog she welled up in tears there and then; testament to just how disturbing the crimes were.

Tomorrow sees the admission of another hideous cruelty case, this time a cat. I'm a little lost for words as to how to describe what the poor animal went through. What we know is that the cat was physically harmed on more than one occasion and someone intentionally placed cable tie around the neck to cause pain and suffering. At the point of rescue the cable tie was so deeply embedded into the cat's neck it had to be surgically removed. I can't help but think that someone was gradually tightening the cable ties to cause as much suffering as possible.

It defies reason why anyone would want to inflict such misery and pain to an innocent creature. The correlations between these cases and recent child abuse cases in the media are apparent. Depravity is something hard to accept exists on this level in our society, but indeed it does. Thankfully it's something most of us rarely get to witness at first sight but there are a team of people who have to deal with this on a regular basis. The special police departments that investigate sickening crimes and the RSPCA inspectorate clearly share so much in common.

One of my favourite artists is Hogarth. He was at the forefront of the development of British Art in the 1700s. He was best known in his day for topical prints, which functioned like newspapers but carried moral messages in an almost tabloid-like manner in a bid to penetrated all fractions of society. One of the print series I cherish is the Four Stages of Cruelty. The story is so relevant in these times that it may well have been conceived in this day and age. If you are unfamiliar with the story and images take a look at this link: it will undoubtedly send a shudder down you as you consider the contemporary nature of these images.

This set of prints were part of Hogarth's Modern Moral Series and it demonstrates that even over 260 years ago the preoccupations of society were much the same as they are today. The difference being was back in the 1700s there was no such thing as the RSPCA, let alone a police force.

I thank myself lucky that we live in these modern times and that we have such wonderful frontline staff that do the job they do. I'm so glad we live in a society that has both a police force and an organisation that is dedicated to investigating animal cruelty.

In an ideal world it would be a statutory body, like you see in some states in America, being responsible for investigating animal welfare complaints, and paid for by the government and tax payers money. Instead it is left to a charity that is restricted by money (it operates entirely on public money) to do the best they can to investigate and uphold the law; it doesn't entirely make sense to me.

What I do know is that the RSPCA does what it can and to the best of its abilities with the resources that it has. I am, above all, grateful to my inspectorate friends who spend each and every day coping with such horrific sights, verbal abuse and threats. Money does not buy this level of dedication, passion and compassion does. Thank you to you all.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Feline Fine?

It's hard to know where to start. The last few weeks have been quite a trial and things remain pretty dire. Across the region nursing queens, kittens and adult cats are being found, abandoned, unwanted in their droves and it feels like we are in a crisis.

I know we aren't alone judging by the number of calls we've been receiving from members of the public desperate to find somewhere to relinquish their own cats. They tells us they've tried everywhere and all the other animal charities are full. I also know we aren't alone judging by the number of appeals going out from other branches across the region. They are desperate for help with the vast numbers that are in their (frequently abandoned on their doorsteps) that they simply cannot cope.

Laurie the office cat
The situation is nothing new. To be honest it's the same every summer time. Why people let their unneutered cats outdoors, whether male or female, is beyond me because only one thing will ever come of this; a massive number of unwanted cats and kittens.

We have felt the strain too. At one point, when we'd exhausted all available spaces and asked our foster carers to take in even more, we had a cat dumped on the doorstep of one of our shops. He was unearthed in his pet carrier under a pile of donations. We've no idea how long he'd been there for but he was so traumatised that he hid for 10 whole days, only coming out at night. You see we simply had nowhere else to put him so he had to reside in our office in the midst of heatwave temperatures, unable to even open a window to get some air in case he escaped.

What is different about this summer is the dramatic drop in cat and kitten adoptions. We have just ended a 3 week spell of not having a single adult cat find a home. Kittens adoptions are even more worrying. We've never been in a position where it's highly likely that they may grow up to early adulthood in our care.

We've had kittens waiting for homes for over 3 weeks now. This is unprecedented for us and makes me fear for their future. You see the older they get the less interested people are in them because they have lost the 'cute kitten factor'. 

The ones in greatest of trouble are our noirs - black ones to you and I! On average black cats/kittens take 3 times as long to find homes which means kittens like Pansy, Paul and Grady could be nearly fully grown before they find a home.




The other factor that few people realise is that we need to rehome an animal to be able to take in more. One in one out. It really is as simple as it sounds but few realise that we do not have infinite amount of space.

Today I received calls from our rescue staff amounting to a total of 6 nursing queens and kittens desperate for somewhere to go. we may be able to help one family next week. That's it.

And just because the focus is all on cats and kittens at the moment it doesn't mean that the neglect and cruelty cases have stopped. Next week we see two new dogs arrive, one subjected to neglect, the other allegedly violently attacked.

We've had a lot of people express their frustration about not being able to get through to the national helpline lately but that just demonstrates how inundated with complaints the national RSPCA is. I truly feel peoples frustration with our own branch's limitations but that fact us, national RSPCA and all other animal charities do what we do in a voluntary capacity and I'm damn sure we are doing the best we can with the available resources we all have.

There is just one simple solution to the crisis - neuter your pets. If you can't afford to then ask for help, we're only too happy if there is a genuine case of need.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Hippo and Old Shep

After a week off for my annual indulgence (aka Glastonbury Festival), followed by a week at Bristol Uni studying animal behaviour (at my expense), you could be forgiven for thinking I'd left the branch. So much so this week that I've been accused of avoiding people and disappearing altogether! You see two weeks in the world of animal rescue can seem like a like time because so much happens in that time. But, in reality, the faces change but the tragic stories amount to the same - neglect and despair.

During my two week absence much has changed. Most significantly we lost two beautiful souls - Bey and Lucky, yet we were blessed with the offer of a new home for our Dobermans, mother and daughter Bella and Roxy, in Nottingham. The girls have had a remarkable transformation thanks to their foster carers and extensive veterinary intervention and after 3 months of rehabilitation they were hardly recognisable (as you can see in Hannah's post below). They've been in their new home for 5 days now and we're hoping they are settling well.

With my return comes a mountain of administrative catch up and the admission of new animals. There really never is a shortage, in fact it's relentless. With few offers of homes for adult cats at the moment we are worrying how we are ever going to accommodate the sheer number of animals needing to come in. We think it's a combination of holiday time and people wanting kittens that has nearly halted the cat adoption side of things, but pleasingly we managed to find homes for 33 animals last month, 8 of which were rabbits. Now this is a massive achievement because rabbits are hard to home, hard to pair with other rabbits and hard to persuade people that they have very specific welfare needs. Few people appreciate just how much space they need and often choose to ignore advice and go off and buy a rabbit from a pet shop instead.

Buying rabbits from pet shops is fine, but the main reason we have so many neglected and abandoned rabbits is because an ill thought-out purchase has been made, the buyer has been given the wrong advice by the seller, or, as is often the case, the rabbits have been sexed wrongly.

Meet Leo, Carris and Kerry. Their owner were told they were buying a pair of females and in no time they had 20 rabbits!



And what few people know is that we also have to deal with the neglectful situations created by the suppliers of animals to the pet trade. I'm sure many of you have seen cases in the news of puppy farms being raided, but we also have to deal with it with small animals too. This week we've had a right big slap in the face after we took in 7 guinea pigs from a breeder (approx 50 were removed in total). Not only is it likely the females are pregnant but there's ringworm too. The 'r' word is every animal charity's dreaded fear. Only time will tell what impact it has on the other animals, and us, but for now they are in isolation and we are keeping everything crossed we've avoided a plague. )To learn more about it in guinea pigs check out this link.)

We've admitted 8 new cats this week. All of them are black, all around 4 months of age, but from 3 different homes. We also have an abundance of little kittens ready for adoption and guess what? Yes, most of them are black too. So few people want black cats/kittens, so we will just have to hope for a miracle me feels.

Little Bear

We've also admitted two beautiful dogs this week. They've been given nick-names - Old Shep and Hippo - probably unfairly, but it has given us something to chuckle over. Old Shep is with us because his owner was leaving him for 48 hours at a time. No doubt he'll now be anxious about being left in the kennel but at least he's safe now and hopefully the predictability of kennel life will enable him to rest at ease a little. He's going to make someone very happy because he is a lovely dog (and not actually that old, he's just started slightly greying on his muzzle) but at the moment he needs some veterinary treatment before he can go up for adoption.

Our other newbie, Hippo (officially our new favourite), was found abandoned, tied up. Hippo was microchipped and the registered owners were contacted but they said they'd rehomed him two weeks ago. Hippo is going to make another cracking companion for someone very lucky indeed. We've named him Hippo because he's a wee bit odd looking, a genuine crossbreed with a barrel belly like a Hippo! I'll be looking forward to the day when these two find their new forever homes; they are so deserving and so delightful.

Of course, as ever, I'm only scraping the surface about the details of my first week back, but you get the drift that there's been plenty to do. But perhaps what has excited us the most is the confirmation of two new, fundraising events. One is scheduled for September - a pirate themed night out at the Kings Arms on the edge of town. Our imaginations are running wild with this one and it is guaranteed to be alot of fun (but adults only). The other will be in November, to coincide with the return of Strictly Come Dancing, and will be a tea dance with a chance to learn ballroom dancing and enjoy lots and lots of tea and scones - how terribly British! Love it!

For now, let's enjoy the wonderful weather, but please keep your small animals in shaded, cool places and please do not take your dogs out walking during the day, or leave them for any amount of time in a car, or take them out running with you. As I finish off it's nearly 9pm and only now am I venturing out to walk my dog. Please be sensible and keep your animals safe from the sun and enjoy the weekend.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Three days in the life...

I’m sure like me, many of you reading this wanted to work with animals when you were younger. I wanted to be a vet but alas my scientific talents were somewhat lacking and that dream soon disappeared! Instead I filled my parents’ house with rescue animals and then did the same when I bought my first house.

For the past three years I’ve volunteered for the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch in various roles. I'm currently chair of trustees, home visitor, dog walker, fundraiser & social media bod! Consequently, I have a pretty good grasp of what the animal staff get up to. However, this week I offered to cover for a member of staff, Deb so she could have a well-deserved holiday. As I work full time elsewhere (in a non-animal related role) this meant taking three days off work, to work. But hey - dealing with cute animals all day can’t be as hard as my day job, right? Well that’s what I thought on Sunday evening. It’s now the following Sunday and I’m still exhausted. Here’s my diary from my three days as a member of team Manchester & Salford...

Monday – Day One


Every Monday morning Deb walks dogs with one of our fabulous volunteers. Currently we have four kennel spaces (this is all we can afford) in a private boarding kennel. We are very lucky to have our own brand new kennel block with an office & grass paddock for the dogs to play and relax in. 

Our office in the kennel block complete with a mural created by Deb!

Today our volunteer walks Blues the Jack Russell terrier cross whilst I play with Melvin. Melvin is a typical staffie puppy – energetic and daft and completely loveable. But, bless him, he’s also very confused with his life in kennels and often doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. We have a play in the paddock off-lead, then a big walk in the fields.

Melvin exploring the woods

Anyone who walks rescue dogs for a charity will know the gut-wrenching feeling when you have to put them back in the kennel; it’s horrible. However nice a kennel may be with enrichment toys, comfy beds, Classic FM on the radio - it’s not where dogs should be. They should be in a home. Melvin gives me a look; I buckle so we sit on the sofa in the office instead. Within ten minutes he’s fast asleep and I’m stuck. I sit and check the office emails on my phone still pinned under a snoozing blob of staffy.

Sleepy Melvin


Finally Melvin wakes up and I pop him back in his kennel. All the dogs get enrichment toys on rotation to keep them occupied. I collect all the Kongs and stuff them with biscuits and meat (it’s an art form stuffing a Kong you know?). I give out the Kongs, check everyone has water, straighten up their beds and check all the kennel doors are secure. I don’t look at Melvin again because I know I’ll never leave otherwise.  

The art of Kong stuffing

Drive back to the office, have lunch whilst checking office emails, branch Facebook & Twitter etc. I doubt Deb has much of a lunch normally so this is probably a luxury for me! 


I check the office diary for any vet runs or follow up checks that need doing. Lo and behold there are five kittens due their first vaccinations and general health check. This means liaising with the foster parents for a good time to collect the kittens then calling the vets to book an appointment. It all sounds easy in theory but it’s surprising how the logistics can get very confusing very quickly! I book the kittens in for 3pm on Wednesday, make a note of how many carriers to take & to remember to bring cat litter. We provide all supplies for our foster homes; cat food, litter etc however, we only have a budget for litter. If you would ever like to help us by donating cat food via Amazon it would be very much appreciated!

I’ve also got to sort out a home visit for our two Dobermans who were reserved at the weekend. I call the potential adopters and sort a time to come to see them tomorrow. They live in Nottingham but it’s worth the drive to find these two special girls at home! 

In between my office jobs time has flown by. I just manage to complete some paperwork and straighten the office before I go home.  

Tuesday – Day Two

Drive to Nottingham for Roxy & Bella the Doberman’s home visit!  

Driving times

Home visit goes swimmingly. I’ve been doing home visits for four years now and still enjoy them. It’s great to chat with potential adopters and get a sneak peek into the life that our rescue animals may be leading very soon. We know our animals so well and invest lots of time and effort into caring and rehabilitating them – they are treated as if they were our own animals.  Often the home visit is the final stage of our commitment to them – although we are always on hand to give advice and support once the animal has been rehomed, of course. Fingers crossed everything works out for Roxy & Bella! 

Check out these before and after pictures of the girls. When they came into our care they were 10kg under weight and had been signed over into our care as the owner could no longer cope.




I arrive back in Manchester; the next job is sorting out a foster home for two guinea pigs who we suspect may be pregnant! I contact one of our foster carers who can take them next week. We have a small network of foster carers that we call on when we have animals in need of a little extra TLC. 

These two guinea pigs were rescued along with many young male guinea pigs. Sadly, they had not been separated so the chance of pregnancy is very high (males can breed from 3 weeks old). These girls will stay with us for a couple of months on ‘pregnancy watch’. If they aren’t pregnant they can be rehomed, otherwise they will have their babies with us... 

Phoebe & Pauline the piggies

Wednesday – Day Three


It’s Wednesday morning and I’m back at the kennels! Everyone gets a good walk & a bit of playtime in the paddock. I walk the lovely Blues in the woods. Today he’s decided that he can climb trees and wants to show me how to do it! 

The lovely Blues
After an hour of splashing through streams and lifting Blues out of trees we head back to the kennels. Every week the animal staff health check all the animals. Wednesdays is the dogs’ turn. We weigh them (lots of bribery to get them on the scales!) and give them a good once-over checking teeth, claws, skin/coat condition and so on. 

Weighing in time for Blues!

Today everyone seems fine so I fill up Kongs again, check everyone is secure and head back to the office.


I arrive back at the office. I quickly chuck back some lunch – answer emails, Facebook and Twitter messages.

Keeping our website and Facebook updated daily is a big task

One of our cats, Elkie has been reserved and the home visit has passed. Whenever we rehome an animal we complete an adoption pack. In the pack is adoption paperwork for the new adopter to sign to officially take ownership of the animal, microchip information & vaccination card. We also complete little booklets which tell you the story of the animal, what medical treatment they have had and what they like and dislike. Elkie’s dislike just says ‘Being ignored’ - which is about right for her!

Elkie showing her cheeky side!

It’s time to pick up the kittens that I booked in for first vaccinations two days ago. I’m armed with cat-litter and cat carriers. I was determined to keep my car clean but alas the litter bag explodes and my car now smells cat-litter fresh! 

I arrive at the foster home in Didsbury and meet the gang. We have Lex, Harry, Truffle, Marley & Bailey - they are absolutely to die for... 

Summer and her brood

They were found with their mum in someone’s garden. Probably another case of someone letting their unneutered female outdoors, going stray, getting pregnant and then giving birth out in the wilds. It’s a story we hear day in, day out. We currently have over thirty kittens in our care and I’d guess the majority came to us via this completely preventable situation.  

So all the kittens are scooped up into a carrier and off we go to the vets!


A fun car drive with meowing kittens. Having cute kittens in your car is a bit of a hazard, you can’t help wanting to look at them! 


We arrive at the vets and sign in. I soon discover that you are the centre of attention when you have a carrier of kittens on your lap! The kits are very well behaved during their appointment - except for the naughty Bailey who tries to do a runner whilst we are vaccinating the last kitten! Each kitten is weighed, health checked and vaccinated. 

Harry getting health checked


Journey back to foster home - the meowing continues!

None the worse for their little vet trip


Arrive back at the kittens’ foster home. This is the hard part. The mother, Summer, needs to be separated from her kittens and taken to our cattery. The kittens are weaned and eight weeks old now so they are fine to leave her – but it doesn't make this task any easier. 

I have to bite the bullet and pop Summer in the carrier. She's not too stressed so I want to get to the cattery quickly to get her settled in before rush hour.


Drive to cattery talking to Summer all the way. I can vouch for the fact that she's a very good listener!


The cattery board - Elkie & Mojo reserved!
We arrive at the cattery. Summer's pen is all clean and ready for her when I arrive. We hire a cattery block in a private boarders and I think its fab. Thanks to our supporters donating cat activity centres, toys, tents and beds each pen is full of enrichment and the cats love it. I let Summer out of the carrier, top up her food and water and leave her to settle (after a good fuss, of course). She's very skinny from looking after her kittens but I'm sure she'll soon fatten up when she finds her forever home.

The beautiful Summer arriving at the cattery
My last job of the day is to drop off Elkie’s paperwork ready for when she is collected tomorrow.

All our animals get an info pack when they are adopted

I get a text from Michelle (another wonderful member of our animal team) to ask if I'll do a home visit for another branch of the RSPCA. Although we are all independent charities we do help with other branch's home visits when we can & if they are in our patch. I give the potential adopters a ring and thankfully they are happy for me to drive straight round on my way home.


I drive to home visit.


I arrive at home visit and meet the potential adopters. They want to adopt a long stay dog and have had lots of experience of rescue dogs. We go through all the basics; diet, training etc and have a good chat. Everything is fine and the home visit passes. I let Michelle know to contact the branch in question and drive home. 


I get home and complete my home visit paperwork. Every time we do a home visit we complete a questionnaire to keep on file. I've got 2 to do but thankfully one of my house rabbits, Delphi is on hand to assist....

Delphi keeping an eye on proceedings. She's my 6 year old rescue rabbit

I'm exhausted after just three days of doing Deb's job. I literally don't know how she does it five days a week! I say she works five days a week but I remember her partner Tom once said that Deb has two modes: working for our branch and sleeping. 

Our animal staff rarely get the appreciation they deserve. We have 2 members of animal staff, Deb & Michelle, as well as our branch manager Susie (I couldn't even begin to describe the scope of Susie's role!). Often they are told they don't do enough, should do more, should help more and I can only imagine how frustrating this is for them.

My slight dabble in their world wasn't really an accurate representation of the sheer amount of work they do, just a tiny insight. Thankfully, Deb saved the nicer jobs for me to do so I didn't go running for the hills! I didn't have to answer the office phones (which is a notoriously unpleasant job sometimes as people are often abusive when we can't help them), I didn't have to deal with any new arrivals or decide which animals we had space for and which we didn't. Neither did I have to put animals to sleep that were suffering and in pain that we couldn't save.

The remit of Deb & Michelle's roles are mind-boggling, the logistics and constant car journeys are often tedious and time consuming (as well as thoroughly unpleasant in this heat!) & seeing cruelty, abuse and abandonment every single day must take it's toll.

Our charity might be small but I hope this blog provides an insight into how hard our team work for each and every animal in our care. They do us all proud. Same time next year then Deb?

Melvin is still looking for a home!