Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Woodhead Pass

We've gone over the Pennines twice this week picking up animals rescued by inspectors that had nowhere else to go. I'm not sure quite what that says about available resources in the area, animal welfare matters in the area, or our ability, at RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, to be flexible and willing to help. 

In total we've taken in 7 cats, 6 rabbits and 1 dog. Yesterday Michelle and I didn't finish until 7pm and we were well and truly happy to be home. But is it not just all in a day's work for us?

This week has been the hardest for some time. It has been turbulent to say the least and full of anguish and anxiety that I couldn't possibly begin to share the details of, but it goes without saying it is all about the animals. By Thursday lunchtime we were well and truly battered and bruised emotionally. We had a rare moment of being in the same room as each other at the same time and for once we sat in silence as we ate our lunch. It's weeks like these that make you long for another job, to be made redundant because there is no more animal cruelty.

We can see that we have quite a journey ahead of ourselves with some of our new admissions. We can see we will have to cling to hope and a prayer if we are going to find homes for some of our animals. And we can see already just how 2014 is shaping up. I've never known such a stressful January, never seen so many kittens before and never had so many calls from people so destitute or ill that they cannot care for their animals anymore.

It's at times like these that I resent the people who acquire animals on a whim, or irresponsibly allow breeding. It's these people that very often prevent us from helping people and animals most in need because those people have created animal suffering, cruelty, neglect or abandonment. I've heard from callers all week long that there are simply no cat or dog spaces in any of the Greater Manchester animal sanctuaries; and I can well believe it.

We continue to prioritise the animals that our inspectorate rescue in the hope and belief that they are the neediest of society's animals. Let me introduce you to some of our new arrivals this week.

I don't know how well you can see Myrtle's claws in the pictures. In real life they betrayed the pitiful care and conditions she had been living in.

Myrtle was one of over 30 rabbits living in makeshift hutches on an allotment. It's hard to tell from the pictures but she is a British Giant. All the rabbits had been confined to hutches all their life. The majority overweight, including Myrtle, and had been used to breed from. We have concerns about some of the rabbit's sexual health (yes, they can contract syphilis) and some had been repeatedly breed from so much they have no discernible vulva.

Myrtle's claws were so overgrown that they protruded from her paws by nearly an inch. Stuck fast to the end of several claws were large globules or impacted faeces. This can only happen as a result of living in absolute filth. The overweight rabbits were unable to groom themselves sufficiently so there were dirty bottoms and impacted scent glands too, not to mention some suspect dental problems.

Baby Olly came from the same place; probably around 10 weeks old, this lop bunny boy has been rescued in the nick of time. We can now ensure that he gets a good diet and plenty of exercise in time for him to develop good health and good eating habits.

This latest group of admissions means that our rabbit tally has rocketed to over 30 once more. We really do need to find homes for our beautiful pairs and single men who have been waiting patiently for new homes. Until such time we can't admit any more rabbits again.

After 4 weeks of being closed to new admissions in the cattery due to mild flu-like symptoms we were finally able to admit new furries. Our last admissions had been Rudy and Donna on 22nd December who were abandoned in a woods in a box. We couldn't admit anyone sooner because the cold virus was still at work. But thanks to adoptions our 11 pen cattery saw us dwindle down to just 3 inmates, with 2 of them being reserved, leaving just our delightfully potty Jezebel waiting for a home.

So, it was with great relief this week that we were able to assist with a house full of 5 cats and 1 dog and take them all into our care at once. However, within hours it became apparent just how traumatic their ordeal had been, having been left to fend for themselves in a home without even litter trays. The word 'squalid' doesn't come near to describing the conditions that both humans and animals were living in. Needless to say both the humans and animals were given the helping hand they needed.

Much to our relief the cats are using their litter trays and have begun to eat. But they are a way off being ready for adoption as they huddle in fear together in their snuggle boxes. As for the dog, well he's in an even worst state and only time will tell.

The moment he stepped into his bed at the cattery.

And here is Logan. A late addition to our pick up yesterday. He was found abandoned in a terrible, matted state. The matting was so severe that he had to be sedated to remove his coat.. This was only done the day before but there was nowhere for him to go after his visit to the vets so a desperate call was made to us and we were only too happy to oblige. 

What was so remarkable about Logan was that even after 2 hours of travelling, including those horrible corners on the Woodhead Pass, he went straight into his new cosy bed and started purring as he got a fuss. And whilst he may look like he is wearing a funky body warmer he is in fact bald as a result of his neglectful state.

So, all in a day's work? Maybe, but not next week thanks. We need a bit of a breather so we can recover and re-energise in time for the next storm. I doubt we'll ever be surplus to requirements, but it's good to dream.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Can you help Anja fight for her life?

We currently have a little Rottweiler puppy fighting for her life at the vets who was cruelly abandoned late at night on Christmas Eve. At barely 8 weeks of age Anja was found in a box by a passerby who called the National RSPCA rescue line. She was found to be lame on one leg, shivering with cold and underweight. Anja spent Christmas at the National RSPCA vets and came into our charity's care on 27th December.
Anja on arrival, settling into her foster home - 27th December 2013
After two weeks Anja was no longer lame; it was originally suspected that her leg bones were growing at different rates but with her rapid development they soon rectified themselves. But no sooner had she got the all clear with her legs she came down with cystitis so off she went to the vets again. Whilst this improved in no time, late at night on Sunday 12th January Anja became desperately ill with vomiting and diarrhoea. She was rushed to the vets and admitted straight away. Anja has been there ever since fighting for her life with suspected parvo virus. Tests are currently inconclusive because of her recent vaccination, however today she has had to be operated on to explore abnormalities in her intestines. It is likely that the abnormalities may have been caused by the gastro enteritis but the picture remains vague and her future in doubt.

So far Anja's veterinary care is up to £1000. She is 11 weeks old now and we are desperate to give her every chance of recovering and going on to live a long and happy life but we are running out of funds. Her veterinary team are fighting hard to keep this little girl going and she's certainly doing her bit too. Can you help us help her?
Anja on Monday 13th January at the vets prior to being admitted

 If you would like to help us you can donate to Anja's vet treatment via the methods below:
Text: ANJA11 £1/2/3/4/5 or £10 to 70070
Online: Via Just Giving: (Please state: Anja)
Cheque: Made payable to 'RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch' and sent to:
Anja's Appeal
c/o Susie Hughes
RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch
565 Wilbraham Road
M21 0AE

If you would rather send a bank transfer please just email us for details:

Thank you on behalf of the team at RSPCA Manchester & Salford

Anja having cuddles with her foster dad prior to her illness

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Annual Review of 2013

The chance to reflect on the year gone by is both a melancholy and celebratory experience. There have been some prevailing themes in 2013 that are alluded to in our annual statistics below.

Animal Adoption


The reduction in cat adoption and admission figures in 2013 is quite striking. This year has seen what can only be described as a cat crisis. Back at the beginning of August I reported via the blog just how dire the situation had become. Across the country RSPCA branches were in serious trouble trying to cope with the sheer volume of adult cats and kittens being abandoned, rescued and relinquished. There seemed to be fewer homes than ever on offer for adult cats and by September the national RSPCA launched nationwide appeals for help on behalf of all the branches. The rehoming figures that you see above are largely compiled of kittens.

A decrease in neutering of owned animals was the reason for this crisis. In order for the cat population to remain stable 92% need to be neutered. The country was estimated to have reached a low of 89% and this small fluctuation was what was creating this terrible state of affairs. Our branch responded by teaming up with the RSPCA Greater Manchester Animal Hospital to launch a free cat neutering initiative, but despite the additional offer of free transport and free microchipping the uptake was disappointing.

The second striking thing about the figures is the reduction in dog adoption and admissions. This is down to one thing only; the number of dogs coming into our care requiring long-term rehabilitation as a result of their neglectful pasts. We have seen some sickening cases of animal cruelty this year, many of which have been endured by our canine friends. The immediate one that springs to everyone’s mind is Buster.

RSPCA inspectors investigated a complaint about a dog that had been left with horrific, untreated injuries. Buster had been attacked by members of the family he had lived with during the four years of his life and suffered unimaginable pain. This was no doubt worsened as the days went on as his deep wounds became infected.

We got Buster two weeks after he had been rescued by the RSPCA inspectors and you can see from the pictures just how revolting the wounds are. Buster defied all logic and reason; he was the most friendly and affectionate soul and oozed confidence and happiness when he was around us all. Some speculated that he was likely relieved to have come to a place of safety. Whatever the case may be he was a treasured soul.

Alas, Buster was denied the ultimate happy ever after when his life was cut tragically short. After weeks of veterinary intervention, when he was ready to be rehomed, he went off for neutering never to return. Tragically his heart stopped whilst under anaesthetic and he could not be resuscitated; such a rare and brutal occurrence and one that left us all reeling.

Buster represents one of many that we’ve had to spend weeks, and sometimes months, undoing the harm that has been caused by their previous owners. Denzel is one of the latest admissions, following the discovery that he had been kept locked in a room for six months, never let out and living knee-deep in his own faeces and urine.

Denzel is another remarkable animal who was clearly once a well-loved and well-looked after dog before being taken on by his last owner. Denzel, although suffering with agoraphobia as a result of his prolonged solitary confinement, has a great passion for people and desire to be their companion. Denzel will be placed up for adoption shortly and will make someone’s life complete.
Denzel dog

Reflecting on the rabbit adoption and admission figures it is clear that we will never, ever be able to meet the demand for spaces for rabbits. This year it has been commonplace for RSPCA inspectors to encounter homes where there have been up to 50, 100 and even 200 rabbits in just one dwelling. The sheer volume that are rescued, found unwanted and abandoned is worsening year on year and it’s all because of inadequate care and knowledge of the species.

We typically see cases of neglect resulting in emaciated rabbits with severe muscle atrophy due to being confined to live in tiny hutches, often without water, bedding or regular access to food. Brady was a victim of this level of deprivation. He was being kept in a 2ft hutch barely able to move. He had no access to food, water or bedding. He was living in inches deep of his own faeces, so bad that it was spilling out the hutch.
Brady tucking in.

Brady was lucky to survive. He required a good long while to build up his strength and get used to space and gradually being introduced to weight bearing exercise, but he made it and he loved his new found freedom. Even more incredible was just how much he loved our attention. He has since gone on to find the home he deserved as a house rabbit.
Brady, now Baker, tucking in to his Christmas dinner 

100% of the animals that we admitted during 2013 were RSPCA generated animals. In the majority of cases someone had failed to meet the needs of their animal whether through neglect, cruel treatment or abandonment. We do have a small proportion that is born in our care: rabbit kittens and feline kittens and they are always a source of great joy and delight!

We also help owned animals by offering free microchipping and free neutering to people on low incomes. This year we have, admittedly, scaled back on our microchipping activity in favour of fundraising events to make sure that we can fund the work that we do but we have still been able to help a sizable sum of animals.

Free Neutering
*does not include animals neutered via the RSPCA animal hospital scheme

Free Microchipping

A review of our activity must always include the contribution of our charity shops. Typically, in the past, they have raised enough money to fund at least 50% of our animal rehoming activity, but this year has proven disappointing. The first quarter of 2013 saw record low takings with fewer people seemingly having disposable income and fewer people than ever before donating their unwanted items. Some shops struggled to even break even during this period and it was an anxious time.

The launch of our fourth shop at the beginning of the year was blighted by the same struggle. It ran at a loss for so many months that we began to lose hope that we could ever make it work. But as the summer arrived all our shops began to flourish once more and the fourth shop, in the Northern Quarter, began to take off.
The Northern Quarter shop was broken into over Christmas causing £1k in damages

Whilst I am greatly relieved to be able to report that the shops have made us a profit in 2013 we are far from at the point of celebrating, instead we are focusing hard on working together to make sure we maximise our available resources to raise as much money as possible in 2014.
What we have learnt the hard way is that we can no longer rely on the shops for a stable stream of income and have to turn to ever more ingenious ways of fundraising, such as the Imperial War Museum Zipslide Challenge that we held in October. This, to date, is the branch’s most successful fundraising event ever. It raised over £9,000 thanks to 51 people who courageously zipped down a very thin line across the Manchester Ship Canal! The pressure is on to match the thrill of this event but we have something very exciting planned for 2014 that might just top it.

The last area that I feel is important to discuss is the branch’s successful use of social media and online resources. Whilst this is very much a team effort it is primarily orchestrated by just one person, our Chair. She spends hours innovating, researching and learning how best to promote our work. It’s thanks to this dedication that we now have thousands of followers via Facebook and Twitter who show us such generous support and acts of kindness. We’ve recruited countless new volunteers, received tremendous responses to appeals and rehomed so very many animals as a result of our social media activity. It really is quite humbling to see how much people value the work that we do and to know that there are so many people behind us. Above all we benefit from being reminded that people really do care and that motivates us to carry on.
Hannah picture after completing the Manchester Marathon in aid of the branch

As I come to the end of the annual review I once again find myself immensely proud of our branch’s contribution to animal welfare. It may not seem a lot to some, but given that we do not have an animal centre, and we only have two full time animal staff, I think we achieve an awful lot with very little. In 2014 my aim is to ensure we maintain the same level of activity, continue to provide as much support as we can to our colleagues in the field and offer the best level of care to the animals rescued from harm.

My thanks go to all the many volunteers and supporters of the branch. They are the ones who actually enable us to fulfil our charitable obligations. Without them we would be nothing and the animals would have nothing. It’s thanks to you that we exist and we never forget that or take you for granted.

The staff at the branch is a very special species that should not go unmentioned. When they are out walking dogs in rain drenched gales or sorting through vomit covered donations left on a shop doorstep, they do this only because they know they will make a difference to an animal’s life that day. It often seems to me that their motivation to improve the well-being of animals holds no bounds. Few clock watch, few work to rule and few think twice about giving up their spare time to help with fundraisers, conduct a home visit or just make sure that everything is just so.  

Whilst people may be the cause of all the suffering and pain they are also the solution and saviours. Thank you to everyone who keeps RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch going; we need you and want you by our side.