Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Rest

We are into our second year with the ‘Rescue Animal of the Year’ awards and this time round we shortlisted to nine, as opposed to twelve in the first year we ran it. We thought it might make it easier for the voters to choose, but in all honesty they are all such worthy winners. It then got me thinking about the animals that didn’t make the short-list, so I thought I’d share some of my personal favourites……

Bilbo was an all-time favourite cat amongst all the staff and volunteers. He was special in so many ways and someone who will forever remain in our hearts. Despite giving him all the veterinary treatment he required, money just couldn’t undo the years of neglect he had endured as a long-term stray. Everyone absolutely devastated when he could no longer walk and had to be put to sleep. Animal Welfare Assistant Debs Beats aptly sums him up:

“Bilbo should win best rescue animal because he really was just that. He never stopped purring even when we were putting ears drops in three times a day, bathing parts of him in salt water, poking and prodding him all day and worse of all putting him on a diet! He just wanted hugs and strokes all day long and was happy to spend the rest of the day curled up in his bed. Even during his last couple of days when he could no longer walk straight he still managed to sit up and hold one paw up as he did to look extra cute in the hope of getting extra treats, which of course we always ended up giving him! If he had been a human he would have been one of those inspirational people that have a terrible illness but somehow manages to run marathons!”

Boris was abandoned by his owner when they moved out and lived as a stray for a long time before coming into our care. Our Chair, Hannah Brookfield, shares why she nominated Boris:

“Boris was a lovely, friendly chap that I always remember fondly. Being a black and white cat he already had the odds stacked against him for finding a home (black and white cats, along with black cats aren’t as popular as all the other coat colours). Thankfully, his winning personality finally won his new family over and they adopted him this year. I have lots of pictures of Boris playing with his fluffy pink mouse in the cattery which always make me smile.”

Murray came into our care along with his brothers Brett and Jermaine when they were a couple of weeks old. A teenager found them abandoned, tried in earnest to care for them but after a few day alerted his youth worker who in turn contacted the RSPCA. The kittens were in a very poor way and sadly on Boxing Day 2010 Brett went dramatically downhill and lost his fight to life.

Trustee Dave Hartley explains why he nominated Murray:

“Murray was one of my brother’s and his partners very first foster kittens. I remember him when he was a tiny, sickly, little furry blob who needed lots of care and attention from the fosterers, nursing him two hours a day round the clock for ages. He was finally rehomed with his brother and a year on is a gorgeous, big ginger cat, with a tail to die for!”

Mr Jeremy was brought into our care as a long-term stray that had a sensitive tummy that flared up again when he was adopted. After 5 weeks he was returned but thankfully he cleared up straightway but we still took the route of an elimination diet plan and he remained in foster care until he found his forever home in Rossendale. Because he was with his foster family for so long the wrench was hard, but to this day we still receive updates from his 80 year old ‘dad’! Her, his foster mum explains why Mr Jeremy got her vote:

“Jeremy had the nicest temperament. He was cool and relaxed and was always up for a fuss. He never raised a paw or showed any kind of unhappiness. Even though he had to have the plainest food you've ever seen he never meowed in complaint; he just got on with it. I’ll never forget being allowed to let him out to play (he had been with us that long): it was summer and he ran after leaves blowing in the garden like a kitten. We loved him so much.”

Porky was brought into our care after his fairly young owner had tragically passed away. He was a nervous young boy who’d had minimal socialising and was totally unable to cope with the world. We had intended to put him in the kennels but within moments of arrival it was obvious this could not happen. We were very lucky to have our wonderful foster parents Sue and Simon come to his rescue and thanks to their hard work and determination a remarkable transformation took place and he was able to be rehomed. Here his foster mum explains all:

“Porky-piggy was absolutely petrified of everyone; let’s just say that he even emptied his bladder and bowels all over the vets whilst they tried to check him over. He also frantically tried to bite anyone that tried to get near him, hence he was a bit of a problem dog to put into kennels and we ended up with the little guy. After 7 weeks with us he ended up being the most affectionate, playful, fun-loving little dog; and we loved him even though he was the strangest looking dog you’ve ever seen - we called him a Westie on stilts!”

Bonnie came into our care after she was dumped in a bin just a few hours old and left for dead. Everyone was rooting for her as her first foster parents hand-reared her round the clock and performed nothing short of a miracle. Once weaned Bonnie went to a foster home where she could be socialised with large breed dogs. Here her second foster explains why she nominated Bonnie:

“Bonnie is now a bouncy hippo of a puppy and growing every day. She chews everything and anything including me and my husband and our 3 dogs. She’s heaps of fun and a little terror too. She has a little stubborn streak, but is such a sweetheart. She is going to be the most amazingly stunning companion, all be it a bit slavvery , yuk! I must say it’s been a pleasure looking after such amazing animals.”

Earl came into our care along with Lady, as there owner was unable to give them (and 4 other dogs) the care that they needed and were being kept in kennels 24/7 and rarely exercised. One of our volunteers explains why she nominated Earl:

“Earl was one of those cases that stick in my mind because he represents thousands of other dogs that have been in the same position. Being an ex-racer he was kennelled badly and had terrible bald patches on his back legs. I remember walking him in November 2010 and he was shivering with cold but two of the staff at Ashleigh Vets bought him and Lady coats. Luckily we managed to rehome Earl pretty quickly (and Lady too). I did his home visit just before Christmas last year. I was soon sent lots of pictures of him on the sofa and sprawled out in front of the fire with his Santa hat on. This is where greyhounds belong, not on the race track.”

Willow was signed over to our care by her owners who found to be failing to meet her needs. She was not the first dog we had taken from them. Two of our dog walkers explain why they nominated Willow:

“Willow was the most amazingly gentle, well behaved gorgeous dog! Considering the size of her she could have been a nightmare but she was the complete opposite and such a happy lovely dog! I always looked forward to seeing her!” Sarah McConville

“Willow the Great Dane was a big softie who used to nudge her head against you when out walking with her. I loved her to bits.” Jo Aljibouri

Clint had outgrown accommodation at two other RSPCA branches before coming into our care. He had been just 2 months old when rescued but he was a Continental Giant and grew to massive proportions and was temporarily being kept in a dog kennel until we came to his rescue. His adopter remembers the day he arrived because she cares for our bunnies at her private boarding establishment:

“Clint was transferred with his brother from another RSPCA branch. He came in very nervous and looking very sorry for himself. Having recently lost our gorgeous Benny-Benson, a Continental Giant house bunny with an awful brain tumour, we fell instantly for Clint and his brother and ended up adopting Clintos. He has come on in leaps and bounds and is quite the cheeky, quietly confident lad now and loves a special tickle from his new mum (me).”

Margot’s fate was so typical of so many rabbits that come into animal welfare charities’ care. She was found stray and was rescued by a member of the public. One of our volunteers explains why she nominated Margot:

“Margot was just a stunning rabbit that must have had some sort of hare in there too! I remember taking photos of her for our website after she had just arrived; she was so brave and dying to get out for a run. I can see how she ended up straying! Many of the rabbits are so scared when they come into our care due to the ill-treatment they have often suffered so it was a refreshing change to meet a super confident and uber naughty bunny!”

We owe everything and more to the dedication of our staff, volunteers and the private-boarding staff for making sure these very special animals get the chance to live a life worth living, against all the odds. 98% of the animals taken into our care in 2011 were RSPCA ‘generated’, which means they have been rescued from cruelty, neglect and/or abandonment. We are the only animal welfare charity in England and Wales that does what it does, which means our animals are very special indeed.

I can’t wait for the festivities to be over so we can get back to doing what we do best – rehabilitating and rehoming these exceptional furry people.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


Hi my name is Charlie, I am a 2 year old male Collie cross. I have been in the care of the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch since just before Christmas a lovely lady rescued me from a disused warehouse yard, my previous owner had thrown me over the fence and just left me there! I am a favourite with the kennel staff I love my walks and cuddles.

On 17th April 2008, after waiting 5 months to find someone to love him, Charlie was reserved. Charlie meant a lot to us all, but especially the inspector who rescued him. She closely followed his progress and was as thrilled as we were when he left to live with his 'dad' Graham Revell. The above passage is taken from his original write up on and it made me realised what a long way we have come since April 2008.

Since 2008 we have probably rehomed nearly 200 dogs, just like Charlie, that were rescued from despair. It is thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff that we are
still here today, albeit with less funds and half the number of kennels we once had, but we are still here thanks to you all. Charlie and Graham remember us each and every Christmas with a lovely handmade card and a generous donation to our work.

It deeply touches me that they continue to remember us and support us and it is so reassuring to know we have friends like them out there.
I know we have so many friends out there like Charlie and Graham, which makes it all so worthwhile. Thank you to you all for making us what we are; we couldn't be here without you, your faith and support means so much.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, 16 December 2011

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

This week has been such a contrast between joyful Christmas spirit and sheer incredulity.

We have been so lucky to have had such a great response to our Xmas Pet Toy appeal that on Tuesday each and every bunny got new treats and toys to play with and on Wednesday all the dogs got the same! In fact, the response to the dog toys has been so great that we've been able to have a much needed clear out of all the worn, well-loved toys that had seen better days.

We have not seen the dogs so happy in ages, and you know what rabbits are like: if they are eating they are happy! We have some more fantastic enrichment toys to give to the bunnies today and it's all just been so exciting and uplifting and I cannot thank everyone enough for donating so generously.

But whilst our friends and supporters have been so wonderfully kind and caring I'm afraid there has been the typical ,darker side going on.

By Tuesday I really had had a gut full of people calling 'to buy a kitten for their kids for Christmas'. Not a single person had a clue. One person actually challenged me when I said we don't rehome pets as presents and demanded to know why. I said that for over 20 years now animal welfare charities have campaigned against this and it was something she was genuinely unaware of. She didn't seem to listen to my explanation either, so there goes another homeless animal in the new year.

On a related topic, I read this week (courtesy of the Rabbit Welfare Fund) that within the first year of purchase 60% of pet rabbits are relinquished to animal sanctuaries. Sounds a lot, doesn't it? Well, when you consider that the figure amounts to 21,000 you can't help but feel opposed to pet shops selling animals. Currently the Rabbit Welfare Fund is conducting research to find out how many rabbits are in rescues throughout the UK. The previous figure was 35,000 at anyone time, but it's now thought to be much higher. But just think about that for a moment- 21,000 rabbits given up within the first year and 35,000 waiting for a new home at any one time.

Uh. It's so frustrating and makes me so mad. But people just won't have it that rabbits do not make good children's pets. Family pets, yes, but not children's pets. And as I sit here all cosy and warm as the snow falls in Salford - how many rabbits do you think will get ignored today because the owner doesn't want to go out and get cold?

Other bewildering 'snippets' that have happened this week.....
  • one caller sticks in my mind, who rang up to say we had to collect her cat cos she didn't want it any more because she'd gone and got a dog
  • another one rang to say we had to pay for her animal to see the vet as she'd spent all her money on Christmas presents
  • and I learnt of a rescue yesterday of 3 pups abandoned outside a labour club in the freezing cold

The calls to relinquish animals hasn't abated and matters are made far worse because there are no spaces anywhere because there are no animal adoptions at this time of year - either centres choose to close or people turn their attention to the festivities. But abuse from the general public doesn't stop just because it's Christmas and I know many of us have been getting a lot of it recently but the fact is we don't have the answers! Our cattery, kennels and foster carers are already full and will remain that way until the New Year when adoptions pick up again.

So, if I can ask one thing of people over the next week, please spend some extra time with your furries. Treat them to a new toy, buy them something extra special to eat or give them extra play time. Please, take a moment to cherish them and let them know just how lucky they are to be loved by you, because there are so many out there that aren't loved and cherished as they deserve to be.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

What a team!

Our volunteers are simply brilliant. They really are a fantastic team and always, always come good for us when we have an event on and yesterday was no exception to the rule.

We held our annual Xmas Fayre and Free Pet Health Clinic yesterday at Rainbow Community Centre in Eccles. Despite the usual lack of support from the local paper our 1000 leaflet drop seemed to do the trick and people came along in a steady, manageable trickle all afternoon and much to our surprise, by the end of the day, we had seen 115 animals and microchipped 65 of them! And what a menagerie we saw, thanks to having our exotic vet friend Molly Varga health checking.
There was:
80 dogs
16 cats
8 rabbits
5 snakes
2 tortoises
2 rats
1 raccoon - yes, a raccoon
1 hamster

It was funny because I had only been telling someone a few days previously about the growing trend for keeping increasingly diverse exotic animals. We once had skunks at one of our free clinics and that an inspector had recently rescued a stray raccoon. And low and behold would you 'Adam and Eve it' a raccoon appeared at the clinic yesterday. The animal was very well looked after and very beautiful, but it was tinged with sadness for us all because the owners were planning on breeding from her. And before you ask where you get them from there is a pet shop in Manchester that sells them along with Meerkats and Skunks and plenty of other animals that should be left in the wild, in my opinion.

Are we really any better than the old school safari 'trophy hunters'? I mean, have we really moved on all that much if these animals are now being peddled as pets? It makes you wonder really, doesn't it? I mean, when will mankind stop at appropriating animals for its own gain?

As Christmas looms ever nearer there has been a surge in calls from people wanting 'to get rid' of their pets. I promise you this is the exact term of phrase people use. Even someone who had had their dog for 10 years used the term 'get rid' this week and it upset me so much. I confess to having had enough of it all this week and the doldrums have well and truly struck. I'm tired of being expected to have the answers to everything and I'm distressed at the relentless onslaught of unwanted pets and I'm above all fed up with people hell-bent on hating the RSPCA.

It's so bad these days that I am reluctant to tell people where I work if they ask me. And it's not because I ashamed, it's because of the incredible amount of misinformation out there that so often converts to hatred towards our organisation. Two examples of this have arisen this week.

Firstly, there was an article in the Daily Mail about the Turton House Case. When my colleague sent me the link it was attached with a note saying 'I wonder what the truth really is behind this article?' Do you know, it was staggering the allegations made against the RSPCA for alleged 'in action'. And then the comments afterwards from members of the public who were clearly RSPCA haters were just awful. I mean upsettingly awful; but I don't suppose they care.

The very next day I received a document that outlined the true involvement the RSPCA had had with the Turton House Case and my goodness, it was extensive and reassuring. The newspaper article could not have been much further from the truth and in reality the RSPCA (and other horse welfare charities that worked in partnership with us over it) had gone above and beyond in helping to secure these animals' welfare whilst acting within the law.

This is the bit that people seem to fail to understand each and every time they are so quick to criticise - the RSPCA is a charity and does everything voluntarily and has no legal powers. It deeply saddens me why people have such little appreciation for this fact, and, that to prosecute someone costs thousands of pounds. Unless there is substantial evidence (and usually there has to be a vet willing to testify), the charity cannot just throw the money around; it has to justify spending the public's hard-earned, generously donated money.

The other fact that people don't understand is that the RSPCA cannot 'seize' an animal. It has to be the police who do it and invariably the police have to have a vet willingly to go on record saying that it is in the animal's best interest to do so. Again, something that the papers don't bother explaining. It's so frustrating because each time the papers inaccurately report on a case the harm they cause to morale and reputation is so great, yet they get away with it each and every time.

The second reason why I shy away is because of this widespread belief that the RSPCA puts to sleep animals if they haven't found a home in 7 days. Jeeez, if that was true how come we've got animals in our care that have been waiting 14 months to find new homes? So, when I was introduced to someone on a night out on Friday who's first question to me was whether the RSPCA pts after 7 days, I just shook my head and smiled and told the truth. Where does this nonsense even come from? But it's myths like these that perpetuate and breed and develop into contempt towards our organisation that in turn makes doing our work so much harder.

For the time being, the fight has gone out of me because for now, it has all just got a bit too much. I always say that the worst bit about this work isn't the animal rescue side but the people side, and at the moment it has well and truly 'got to me'.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

'Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message'

A very dear friend of mine sent me the 'Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message' below. I suspect it is from America from the spellings. I was struck by many of the frustrations we have in common with the author even though we are so many miles apart. So much of it rings chillingly true that I just had to share it.

Carla Bottle edited a doc. Why our rescue centres are full.....
Dog Rescue Answering Machine Message:
Press 1 if you have a 10-year-old dog and your 15-year-old son has suddenly become allergic and you need to find the dog a new home right away. Press 2 if you are moving today and need to immediately place your 150 pound, 8-year-old dog.
Press 3 if you have three dogs, had a baby a...nd want to get rid of your dogs because you are the only person in the world to have a baby and dogs at the same time.
Press 4 if you just got a brand new puppy and your old dog is having problems adjusting so you want to get rid of the old one right away.
Press 5 if your little puppy has grown up and is no longer small and cute and you want to trade it in for a new model.
Press 6 if you want an unpaid volunteer to come to your home TODAY and pick up the dog you no longer want.
Press 7 if you have been feeding and caring for a "stray" for the last three years, are moving and suddenly determine it's not your dog.
Press 8 if your dog is sick and needs a vet (but you need the money for your vacation).
Press 9 if you are elderly and want to adopt a cute puppy who is not active and is going to outlive you.
Press 10 if your relative has died and you don't want to care for their elderly dog because it doesn't fit your lifestyle.
Press 14 if you are calling at 6 a.m. to make sure you wake me up before I have to go to work so you can drop a dog off on your way to work.
Press 15 to leave us an anonymous garbled message, letting us know you have left a dog in our yard in the middle of January, which is in fact, better than just leaving the dog with no message.
Press 16 if you are going to get angry because we are not going to take your dog that you have had for fifteen years, because it is not our responsibility.
Press 17 if you are going to threaten to take your ten year old dog to be euthanized because I won't take it.
Press 18 if you're going to get angry because the volunteers had the audacity to go on vacation and leave the dogs in care of a trusted volunteer who is not authorized to take your personal pet.
Press 19 if you want one of our PERFECTLY trained, housebroken, kid and cat friendly purebred dogs that we have an abundance of.
Press 20 if you want us to take your dog that has a slight aggression problem, i.e. has only bitten a few people and killed your neighbor's cats.
Press 21 if you have already called once and been told we don't take personal surrenders but thought you would get a different person this time with a different answer.
Press 22 if you want us to use space that would go to a stray to board your personal dog while you are on vacation, free of charge, of course.
Press 23 if it is Christmas Eve or Easter morning and you want me to deliver an eight week old puppy to your house by 6:30 am before your kids wake up.
Press 24 if you have bought your children a duckling, chick or baby bunny for Easter and it is now Christmas and no longer cute.
Press 25 if you want us to take your female dog who has already had ten litters, but we can't spay her because she is pregnant again and it is against your religion.
Press 26 if you're lying to make one of our younger volunteers feel bad and take your personal pet off your hands.
Press 27 if your cat is biting and not using the litter box because it is declawed, but you are not willing to accept the responsibility that the cat's behavior is altered because of your nice furniture.
Press 28 if your two year old male dog is marking all over your house but you just haven't gotten around to having him neutered.
Press 29 if you previously had an outdoor only dog and are calling because she is suddenly pregnant.
Press 30 if you have done "everything" to housebreak your dog and have had no success but you don't want to crate the dog because it is cruel.
Press 31 if you didn't listen to the message asking for an evening phone number and you left your work number when all volunteers are also working and you are angry because no one called you back.
Press 32 if you need a puppy immediately and cannot wait because today is your daughter's birthday and you forgot when she was born.
Press 33 if your dog's coat doesn't match your new furniture and you need a different color or breed.
Press 34 if your new love doesn't like your dog and you are too stupid to get rid of the new friend (who will dump you in the next month anyway) instead of the dog.
Press 35 if it is Christmas Eve, and the Shih Tzu that you got 7 months ago because your 8 yr old and your 11 yr old PROMISED to take care of it isn't working out and you are going to teach them a lesson by making them walk the dog up to the rescuer's door to give it up. Merry Christmas, kids!
Press 36 if you went through all these 'options' and didn't hear enough. This press will connect you to the sounds of tears being shed by one of our volunteers who is holding a discarded old dog while the vet mercifully frees him from the grief of missing his family

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rattie Xmouse!

I spent the day yesterday at Rainbow Community Centre in Eccles; it was an absolute pleasure. For those of you who know me, you will know this is not my idea of rock 'n' roll! So, why was it so enjoyable? Because I saw true community spirit was alive and kicking. Moreover it is in the heart of Salford where social deprivation is high but this seemed irrelevant yesterday and everyone took part in a Xmas Fayre, show casing their talents.

The centre manager and her team do a wonderful job and I have so much admiration for them. It's because of their enthusiasm that we regularly hold animal welfare events there. So, when I was told by the manager that they are going to fundraise for us next year I was absolutely bowled over. Just amazing.

We will be back at Rainbow next Sat with our free vet clinic and Xmas fayre of sorts. I hope the community comes out in force again to make it a worthwhile event. Paws crossed!

I also got to spend the afternoon with our volunteer Rachel, who has been with us now for at least 2 years, doing home visits and helping at events. Just like so many of our volunteers I see Rachel as a friend first and foremost. She's such an amazing person and so giving and caring. And yesterday she proved such a tonic after a very difficult week. In fact it was Rachel who said to me, 'you haven't updated the blog in a while, is that because you've been having a bad time?'. I smiled and nodded and said that in the last two weeks we had had a very rough time.

As you know, from a previous blog, there was the loss of Cassie. Well, in the last 2 weeks we've also had to have 2 new cats put to sleep along with Zoe bunny. This is an unprecedented number for us, so along with this and other 'challenges' it really has been very tough going. Zoe has caused me and her carers a lot of upset because of her history and length of time with us and no matter how many times we go through this it never, ever gets any easier.

On a positive though, we are doing incredibly well for cat rehoming again. Currently there are only 4 cats in the cattery not reserved! This makes us smile plenty!

Unfortunately it doesn't look like Oscar dog is going to get a home for Xmas and we are desperate to see this happen. If you haven't read about Oscar please take a look at our website. He was beaten by his previous owner yet despite the emotional and physical scars he bears he is a wonderful lad. He really deserves the best Xmas present ever. So, in case his wish list doesn't come true we are going to launch a toy appeal for him and the other pooches and bunnies that will be with us this Xmas.

And if you aren't quite yet in the festive spirit we have a competition you might just enjoy. See Polly rattie in my Xmas tree? Well, we are asking you to submit your seasonal photos on our Facebook page and the winner will be our profile pic over the Xmas and New Year week. So, far we've had some crackers but I suspect Polly will be the only rattie submission. What do you think?