Tuesday, 30 April 2013

To insure or not to insure? That is the question...

 Guest blog post by trustee & volunteer Chris Newton:

Some of you may remember me from my five-part blog I did during October/November last year about how my life has been transformed by the adoption of two ginger kittens from the branch in February 2011.

Since those blogs Emma and I have caved again and we added Frosty to our troops (that is it, we are now full for adoptions until we get a bigger house!). Frosty first came to us as a foster kitten having had a prolapse when he was just a few weeks old. He had already been moved away from his mum which can’t have helped him stress-wise and unfortunately his new owners couldn’t afford the cost of his operation.

We instantly fell in love with Frosty from his super confident entry into the foster kitten room (where we had Santa, Claus, Holly and Ivy foster kittens already), he greeted each one with a bosh on the head, to his infectious purring when you just looked at him. He would fall asleep as soon as he settled in your lap, or as I found out, my back when I was lying down playing with the kittens!

He has settled in really well into our zoo, always the live wire and starting play fights with his much bigger brothers and sisters. He can’t stand to be ignored and his new favourite game is grabbing daddy’s glasses when he comes from hugs! It is a good job I have plenty of spare specs dotted around the house just in case!

By now I am sure you are thinking ‘Crikey, here he goes into another ramble about his cats’ and that is where you would be wrong. This blog entry is purely to do with Pet Insurance. I am on absolutely no commission here, it is to alert other pet owners about the potential costs of pet ownership and how they rapidly increase when something goes wrong. I even asked Susie the branch manager if I could write about it to get the message across.

For those of you who I have done home visits for I always mention pet insurance, again not because I get a cut from the policies, but to really drill into people just how expensive vets bills can be. Up until now the example I have used has been about Tigger and his burnt paw when he decided he wanted some of my spaghetti on toast while I was filling the pot up with water (about 1 metre away from the hob). It was only one paw, and as I live round the corner from my vets he was seen within 15 minutes and made a full recovery. That little episode cost me £150, which was for ONE paw. I had taken out per insurance a month before so reclaimed all but the £65 excess.

Since Thursday 25th April though I now have a new story to tell home visitors. In short my little lion Murray jumped up to see Emma who was on the sofa, knocked a glass of wine over, the glass broke which startled him and Murray slipped off the sofa landing on the glass cutting his right hind paw. A genuine accident if ever there was one. First thing is first, call Susie for help, panic had well and truly set in and we were determined that none of the other four cats would hurt themselves too with glass all over the floor. A wash of the wound and then wrapped in a tea towel was up next followed by a call to the vets, it was 10pm so it would be an emergency trip. An hour later he was bandaged up with an operation due in the morning when there would be a full compliment of staff in to monitor the lion. Last time he was under anaesthetic he had a problem breathing so he was treated like an old fuddy duddy.

The operation went smoothly but it was found the cut was so deep he had lacerated his tendons to all four toes on his paw. They had repaired them but there is a chance the tendons may not fully recover and he may walk a bit ‘toes up’ for the rest of his life. He came home on Friday evening with a nice new bandage, medications and limp accompanied by a bill of just under £600. Since Friday evening Murray has been back to the vets on Sunday and Monday with his stitches due out next Friday. The total cost of this accident is likely to get close to £800.

To insure Murray for a year it is around £140 with a lifetime cover (covers any long-term illnesses for his lifetime, not just the policy year). I cannot express my relief enough for having this meaning that Murray is getting the absolute best care for his injury. I genuinely hope that none of you ever have to experience what Emma and I have been through the last few days with your pets, but should you have to then I really hope you consider taking out some insurance for your little furry friends, or at least have some spare pennies tucked away for a rainy day.

You will be glad to know his wound is healing very nicely as you can see from the picture below and although he will be on cage rest for a few weeks it won’t be long until he is charging round chasing his brother and sisters again. But still, ouch!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Scaling Back

Butterscotch was born in our care last year and for a reasons beyond us he's still with us.
I'm enjoying a rare moment of peace, as my house rabbits snooze and the puppy is having a mooch. It won't last long but that's my own fault for filling the house with so many wonky animals!

You'd be hard pushed to find anyone who works (or is a relative of someone who works) in animal welfare that doesn't have at least one member of the family as a result of their work. Anyone who is able to resist has my total and utter admiration! But paying for the animals when they become ill is something not everyone seems to anticipate when they take on a companion animal.

I'll not lie, I'm guilty of falling for too many bobtails and not always thinking through the consequences of potential ill health, but then I am armed with pet insurance and a expectant attitude. I am surrounded by friends and colleagues (not that there's a differentiation) who similarly go to the ends of the earth for their animals. So, when we get the calls in (on a weekly basis) from someone who cannot even get their pet to the RSPCA animal hospital for treatment, it can, at times, prove hard to have empathy for the human owner. Don't get me wrong, we all need a helping hand at times, but when there is help available but someone still insists on more it is hard to contain feelings of disappointment.

Take for example a recent call from someone who had left their dog suffering with an illness for 5 days, slowly getting more and more ill. The reason for not seeking veterinary help was because 'money is tight cos we're going on holiday tomorrow'.

I hope your heart sank, just like mine did, when you heard those words in your head. I wish I could tell you that that type of call is rare, but it isn't. There seems to be an attitude amongst some fractions of society that a problem is always someone else's except theirs. I've seen it in the varied careers I've had over the years from seeing parents believe it is not their duty to get their child to go to school, to people who don't see there are consequences to the crimes they commit. Yup, always someone else's problem but their own.

Some people think that the RSPCA must have an unending amount of cat and kennel spaces and money to deal with every animal problem that exists. We get people ringing about all sorts of random things like removing ducks that are sitting on a lawn, pigeons hobbling on Market Street or a pet hamster someone is bored of and wants 'to get rid'. Contrary to popular belief there really is limited resources and finances.

I think people don't know or forget that the RSPCA is a charity and everything it does is done on a voluntary basis. It means that the RSPCA cannot be everything to all people, and inevitably that can create disappointment and frustration in the public sometimes. There are, however, waves and waves of people who do understand and do support our work, to whom we are incredibly grateful. Alas, goodwill alone is not going to see us through these hard times.

Our charity, the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, is facing closure. This is not said to shock but to merely state the reality of what we are facing. We are not alone, so many other branches are in a similar position. We have just three months reserves left and if things continue the way they are we could well have to close by the end of the year.

Income is at an all-time low. The shops have seen the worst sales in years, adoption figures are the worst in nearly two years and donations are few. I know you've heard me say this before, but things really are very bleak.

We've been forced to close our doors to dog, rabbit and guinea pig admissions in a bid to claw back costs (no pun intended). We are scaling back staffing levels where we can and upping the fundraising effort. There is a  solid month activities ahead to try and boost income and raise our profile. Of course a month isn't enough, but it's a start and it's an indication of how determined we all are to survive.

Today saw a great start to it all with a vinyl records sale  at the Didsbury shop for 'record day'. Thankfully we received massive support and for the first time this year the shop not only reached target but exceeded it too. A massive team effort from the staff and a very big well done to them all, I;m sure you'll agree.

Tomorrow the Northern Quarter shop are taking part in St George's Day celebrations with a vintage stall at the Night and Day Cafe in Manchester and next week we have two microchipping events and two collections in Asda in Wythenshawe (that we need help with). The list goes on as we celebrate RSPCA Week (w/c 29th April), then Rabbit Awareness Week from 4th May, then on the 5th May we'll be at a street party on Edge Street in Manchester hosting a dog show. On 11th May is a joint venture with Eccles College....I think I'd better stop there, cos I could go on and on. You get the drift and can see more on our website.

The point is, we've hit desperate times. We need to reopen our doors to animals but until we make savings of £10k per month, or increase income by £10k a month, we simply can't. We'll do our best, that I promise, but we need you by our side.

Feeling deflated? Yeah, you're not alone.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

World Where We Live

Is there anything you do obsessively, near religiously? I don't mean any kind of OCD thing, let's face it, most of us have such quirks. I mean like my Doctor Who watching. I can't watch it with anyone else or with any distractions. It has to be me, the TV and Matt Smith or else it's ruined. To be honest, it's largely because I have to concentrate so much to get what's going on but I do love nothing more than entirely immersing myself in the drama and experiencing it vividly.

That pretty much describes how so many of our staff and volunteers feel about their involvement at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch. We aren't merely actors going about our daily performance, we live and breathe, grieve and celebrate the corner of the animal welfare world we inhabit. It means that when bad times happen we all feel it, we all reel from it and we all help each other to deal with it. That's something I value more than anything else about my work and life: the support, friendship and camaraderie we share. It's like we are all in it together - buying into the good and the bad times, united in our love of what we do.

What's really nice is that we have an extension to our team now, with the staff at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Stockport Pets At Home. We've all become firm friends and we visit weekly to help with events and enjoy an escape from the office! They live the ups and downs just as much as us and are often just a text or a phone call away to get us through the day.

This week has been a blessing in so many ways, as we've seen first hand how much love and support there is out there for the work that we do. One supporter sent a £20 donation and told me how much she had missed the blog over the last few weeks. Another supporter decided to spend her weekly food budget on cat food for us. The Ocado delivery guy must've have been very confused delivering 330 sachets of cat food to our office! Another supporter raised £65 by raffling an Easter Egg he'd won. It's things like this that make you feel so lucky.

But to be honest, the outlook is far more bleak than we first thought. The week ahead involves some difficult meetings to look at ways to keep the branch running beyond 2013. Things really are that bad, I can't deny they aren't. What I can say is we will face this head on and do all we can to improve matters. For now, we'll keep hoping for homes for our animals, that people get involved with our events and that donations to our shops keep coming in. I've always been an optimist but even my 'default' button feels like it isn't functioning properly.

Perhaps my inspiration for this week comes from our Chair, Hannah Brookfield. We've barely seen of late because she has been in training. She has taken on the challenge to run two half marathons and one full marathon in aid of the branch. Before last year Hannah had never run in her life but she chose the Manchester North Run as he first goal (again to raise money for us) and since then she hasn't looked back.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach living up to its name!

Today she ran the second of the two half marathons in Blackpool, and smashed her personal best in the process. She's so far raised nearly £200! The worst is yet to come, and she'll be the first to admit she's having sleepless nights over the rapidly looming Manchester Marathon.

In training Hannah has accomplished as much as 18 miles in one go, but the marathon is so much more scary. With just 21 days to go we are all counting down with her but suspect we won't be seeing much of her as she pounds the streets nightly after work to make sure she is ready for the challenge of a life time.

It's people like Hannah that make you believe you can achieve anything if you just put your mind to it. I'll keep reminding myself of this thought over the next coming days.....