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.