Approximately three months ago we, the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch, committed to two rather radical, risky and potentially brilliant ideas. Both are so monumental to us that I find myself sitting here, on a Saturday night, hoping it's all going to work out right.
This week we signed the lease on a retail unit in the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. The shop is no doubt our biggest investment risk to date. It is a fabulous unit next door to the Manchester Craft Centre.
|Manchester Craft Centre, on the left is the shop (just out of sight)|
We have just a few weeks to open on a shoe string whilst making sure we come up to the bespoke, chic standards of the neighbouring shops. We are going all out to design an interior like you've never seen before in a charity shop. It's a gamble and a worry and I hope to goodness we can pull it off because like never before we so desperately need a steady income stream and we really need this to work out.
|The green shutter hides our new shop door!|
|RSPCA Adoption Centre at Pets At Home|
On Wednesday this week we went into set up the pens for the arrival of the animals. The animals will stay for a maximum of 4 weeks and will be replaced with new furries looking for homes when their time is up. (However, we're really hoping they won't stay for the full 4 weeks and will find new homes in that time.) The bunnies will come from our branch and will always be adult pairs (neutered, vacc, chipped etc), whilst the cats will always be adults in groups or pairs (again, neutered, vacc, chipped etc). RSPCA dogs will just visit for a few hours at a time once or twice a week.
So, I thought I'd share with you a sneak preview of the centre....
|The welcoming, informal reception area complete with online pet searching facilities.|
|Catherine and I setting up the bunny accommodation.|
|Rochdale Branch setting up the cat accommodation and settling in Marlon and his siblings.|
|Thursday and the cats are happy in their new temporary home.|
Marlon and his siblings Merlin, Murphy and Marley have been in the care of the Rochdale Branch since they were 10 days old. They are now 8 months old and still homeless. Despite numerous media appeals to find them homes they have been repeatedly overlooked because they are black. It is much the same story with our bunny selection that moved in on Thursday.
|Sonia and Gaynor wasted no time in settling in; very typical of these girls!|
It actually took me three hours to leave them, not because I was worried they'd be ok, it's just that we've had them so long and love them so much that it felt like I was leaving two of my own animals there. Well, I suppose I was really and it's kind of inevitable that you end up feeling like that about the longer stay animals. But the next day I got a wonderful update from Nicola (pictured above) and it was hastily shared with everyone else at the branch who was missing them.
|Nicola's update: "I've just fallen through the top of the box and landed on my sister's head." Rabbits have settled in really well. They were lay full length on floor when I came in this morning.|
On the two days I've visited the new centre I've heard a lot of positive feedback and support from the public. It's been great hearing people thank us for advice received and saying how helpful we've been and we've even had our first animal adoption enquiry! It feels like a very exciting venture and I really do think that with the three wonderful new RSPCA staff members running the centre - Nicola, Rachel and Michelle - we have quite a winning recipe.
On Monday morning between 7am and 9am I'm told Manchester Radio will be broadcasting live from the centre. At 2pm that afternoon we will have an official grand opening with the help of the national RSPCA's Chief Executive Gavin Grant. It will be a monumental day and our girls, along with our smashing dog Ellie, will be there to share the limelight. I hope more than anything that this venture helps our rescued animals find new adoption opportunities and we dispel any myths that might exist about adopting 'second hand' pets. And maybe, just maybe, Ellie might get a home for Christmas.