Saturday, 27 August 2011

Vote for Ira!

The week has been long, eventful and full of contrasting emotions. We started the week with the elation of having received very welcome financial support (as mentioned last time) but then the frustration of being a small, struggling charity soon welled to the fore as we had the onerous task of implementing cut backs in our animal intakes.

On the very same day we were evacuated in the afternoon due to a raging fire two doors down. Thankfully no-one was hurt, but a lesson learnt - the fire was started by a computer on standby. Scary, or what?!

So, we now have to aim towards halving the number of rabbits in our care, which means we need to find homes for approx 12. Of course, if it were as easy as all that we wouldn't have so many long stay bunnies, would we, but we have had one bobtailed friend find a new home this week, and a pretty special one at that!

If you haven't seen our 'Rabbit Romeos' yet then please take a look at the website - Burt is the lucky fella to find lurve!

He has been snapped up to live with the beautiful Tallulah bunny. Aw, cute! And I'm delighted to see that my fave bunny boy, Ira, is winning the poll. Before you ask why I don't adopt him, it's simple, I have 8, and they are all house rabbits. So, I really can't have any more!

We also have to start to reduce the number of cats we take into foster care, which is seriously tough because these are the cats that need us the most, but unfortunately they usually cost us the most due to health/welfare needs.

And because we simply cannot afford the kenneling costs anymore we have had to halve our capacity from the start of the year, which means we can now only kennel 4 dogs.

All in all it makes all feel really rather lousy but the animals need us and that's purely what's kept us all focused during this frustrating week.

The high point was certainly the outcome of a prosecution. We have been caring for 5 rabbits for nearly 12 months now, waiting for the case to conclude. It finally happened on Wednesday and the perpetrators were sentenced and the furries signed over to our care, which means we can finally find them forever homes. The previous owners were convicted for failing to provide a suitable diet and veterinary care. They received a 5 year ban on keeping animals but were allowed to keep two pets. One of them got 150 hours community service and the other a 4 month curfew - whatever that means. They were also ordered to pay £100 costs.

If you had seen the state of some of the animals, when they first arrived, you would feel quite angered toward this sentencing. Not to mention the thousands of pounds of money it has taken to bring the case to court. But with such a lapse in time and such a turn around in the animals' health, it's just a relief to us all that we have won and we get to find them the homes they truly deserve. I'm not holding my breath mind, the way rabbit adoption has been going this year they'll probably be with us for another 12 months, but I can't wait until that day happens.

I learnt this week that our branch covers the majority of the 'wards' that are in the top 10% deprived areas in the country - in fact, we cover 25 out of those 33. When you look at it like that it shows why our income is so poor and why the demands for help is so high. Being able to meet that demand is never going to happen (and that's with a large number of other sanctuaries and rescues in the area too) but it does at least throw into sharp relief why we are struggling so much financially.

Take, for example, our annual Mutt Strutt with Nowzad Dogs. The first year we ran it was 2009 and we raised around £900, second year we raised £1400, but this year we only have 5 people signed up for the sponsored walk (aside from our dogs that is). I heard on the radio yesterday that the average person's disposable income is just £100 a month. So, sponsoring your mate and their dog to walk round a park suddenly seems such a frivolous luxury. The lack of interest in the Mutt Strutt therefore understandable. But it's not ,until 17th September so hopefully by then, more people will sign up. (You get to geo-cache too!)

But, as I mentioned previously, it's focusing on the animals that makes us keep perspective, and this week we've been able to take in 2 new dogs, a cat and a kitten.

The new cat is called Taz. He is a big, black, panther of a cat that went and got himself stuck up a 60 foot tree. He had to be rescued by fireman - so there's a new approach for you singletons out there for bagging a date, hey! Anyhow, the poor lad is afflicted with dental disease so needs a costly op next week. And, he sadly adds to our growing number of black cats that are being overlooked. Another one, Ben, is our longest stay resident all because he is black. I wouldn't mind but he has the most awesome personality. But hopefully his time will come soon.

Ronnie is one of the new dogs. He was rescued from a home over-run by animals. He is the sweetest older gent, but again he has bad dental disease so he'll be in for an op next week too. Between him and Taz we are looking at in excess of £350 just to sort out their teeth. It's hardy surprising that pets are often the first to suffer when times are hard.

We are really hopeful that the bank holiday will bring much needed renewed interest in cat and rabbit adoptions and we get lots of calls next week for offers of homes. In the meantime, as his campaign manager, I am obliged to urge you to vote for Ira!

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Aside from a disturbing call last thing on Friday from a man who, in all seriousness, said he was going to eat his daughter's pet rabbit unless we took him/her in, we've had quite an uplifting week. Truly.

Animals have been reserved - woo-hoo! Animals have gone to new homes - double woo-hoo! And we've received some very welcome financial boosts.......triple- riple woo-hoo!!!!

It started with a surprise cheque through the post for £500. It was from a team of staff at a company called Skanska who won an internal competition and nominated our charity to receive the winnings. Things like this just don't happen to us more than, maybe, once every year or two. So the shock and delight was incredible. The money has meant that we can give our dog Benny everything he needs to recover from his ordeal.

Benny came to us 3 weeks ago, desperately underweight and lame on his back leg. He had actually been rescued 8 weeks previously by the RSPCA inspectors from shockingly neglectful cruelty. At this point I have to be careful about revealing info, but he had basically been shoved in the backyard and forgotten about.

Benny should weigh around 22-25kgs but when he was discovered, he weighed a pitiful 9kg. Yes, truly, 9kgs. The inspectors said they could lift him with just one arm.

Benny is now up to 16kgs but his recovery is slow and his muscle atrophy very apparent so he is going to hydrotherapy every week to help build up his strength. As Benny will be with us a while before he returns to full health the £500 means we don't have to worry about the additional costs involved with him being with us for longer. It also means that our dive-bombing water babe can continue with his hydrotherapy for as long as he needs it, even post adoption if necessary. I've only seen video footage of him swimming, but boy does he love it and it is wonderful to see how much pleasure such a cruelly neglected lad is now enjoying out of life.

And then, last night, we got to learn that an alt/grunge night in town called Rusty Cage had held a fundraiser for us and raised the phenomenal sum of £850!!!!! I mean, how awesome is that! This will likely make the difference to us being able to pay some of the bills this month, which I can tell you is a huge relief - I may not be scared to check the bank balance, for a change!

It costs on average £23k a month to run the charity and we've had such a shortfall each month for so long that our reserves are down to just 4 months worth. So, you can imagine receiving financial support like Skanska's and Rusty Cage's means we can feel less anxious about paying the dreaded bills.

But alas the cuts still have to come and next week I have face up to phase one of this and implement a very reluctant decision. For now, I want to enjoy the sunny Sunday that's on offer and live in hope that tomorrow morning will find lots of messages on the answer machine from people who have been to view our animals and want to reserve them. Arrgh, let me live in hope, please!

Friday, 12 August 2011

On the line

It's been a while since the last blog, and it is only with great reluctance that I do this one. Why? Well, because there is little joy to share and little hope of things improving and so we have all spent the last week or so just reeling from the horrible reality we are facing.

July saw the worst animal adoption figures I have ever known. Only 6 cats/kittens, 1 dog and 1 rabbit were adopted. We usually rehome around 25 animals a month and August is set to be little better. The demand for cat admissions in particular is through the roof. We have exhausted every last opportunity we can to place a cat or kitten yet the numbers being rescued is relentless. The only glimmer of reassurance came yesterday when I learnt that a neighbouring branch was experiencing the same dramatic reduction in adoptions.

We've just had a 5th dog of the year returned from last year's rehomings. That's nearly 10% now of the dogs we found homes for last year that have now been returned. Despair is a very real feeling at this moment in time and whilst I'm sure it is not uncommon that other branches and animal charities have dogs returned, it just upsets us all so much as we feel like we have failed them, and that hurts.

Crisis is a word I would never use lightly, but this is what we are facing. We have had a review of our finances and we are in crisis. Rising costs, some large, unavoidable expenditure and reduction in income means that we are in crisis financially and need to find in excess of £30,ooo worth of savings. There's only 2 places where that can come from - the animals and staff. And so this is the terrible reality we are yet again trying to come to terms with.

It's all just so mind-blowing. Animals needs us now more than ever but the means to help them just isn't there. We did an analysis of costs per animal and it is so clear to see where the money goes:
Av costs to rehabilitate a dog in 2011 is £685 (£560 in 2009)
Av cost to rehabilitate a rabbit in 2011 is £420 (£290 in 2009)
Av cost to rehabilitate a cat in 2011 is £210 (£220 in 2009)

These figures only include the basics - boarding costs and vet bills - and not the staff costs or associated sundries such as transportation costs, environmental enrichment etc. And yes, it is our job to do this, but without the money to we simply can't.

You can see that it is the rabbits and dogs where the costs have spiralled. Rabbits take so long to rehome because of their complex needs and, I hope, because of better information being disseminated these days about how they shouldn't live in a hutch and are not children's pets. Whereas with the dogs the costs to rehabilitate really betray the care needs they have when they come into our care.

When you see the truth of what it costs per animal to take in, rehabilitate and rehome, it becomes quite maddening when people balk at the idea of paying an adoption fee. We charge £100 for a dog, £50 for a cat/kitten and £40 for a rabbit - all are neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and where species applicable they are flea and wormed regularly too. It was only yesterday that I spoke to someone who had bought a regular kitten of the internet for £39 and had to return him/her because they were riddled with fleas. I constantly ask myself why wouldn't you go to a shelter?

So, you can see why my absence from the blog has been so long. It is just so much to come to terms with, and as always, the staff are dealing with it all so admirably whereas me and the trustees are still despairing. We remain closed to animal admissions for the foreseeable future but with dozens and dozens of them waiting for new homes there is no shortage of work to keep us busy. I have included a selection of some of our beautiful new cats.

In the meantime, if you'd like to help there are some really simple ways you can do this:
1. Tell people to adopt an animal from us.

2. Bring along unwanted items to our Didsbury shop - 19 Barlow Moor Road. We had a good first 2 weeks but the weather has really dampened sales this week and we will barely break-even, plus donations have really dropped off, so we really need anything you can share.

3. Donate your copper jar to us - we love counting pennies.

4. Help us with our events/fundraising - we have a hot supper and dance booked for November and we really need donations of prizes for our raffle, auction and help with decorations

Every bit of help and support means so much to us. We are grateful to all our supporters, staff and volunteers for being there for us and we hope we can be here beyond next year but at the moment this is on the line.