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.