Monday, 9 January 2017

The year that was 2016! Our Annual Review

Our Annual Review 2016

Looking back, 2016 has been a big year for us at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch, with new species being admitted and rehoming figures reaching an all time high the past 12 months have been a huge success (our accountant might not see it that way mind you!). As a small branch of the RSPCA (and a separately registered charity) with just three members of animal staff (1 full time and 2 part time) we have to work extra hard to keep up with the larger branches. We don’t have our own animal centre and instead rely heavily on volunteer foster homes and private boarding facilities to care for our animals, and yet in 2016 we achieved results equivalent to branches with animal centres.
Thanks to the love and care from our animal foster carers and the social interaction from our volunteer cat cuddlers our fluffy felines have been flying out the door and we’ve seen the success rate of rabbit pairings rise dramatically thanks to our new home bonding scheme. By sending rabbits out on a temporary fostering basis it has given more people the confidence to try and find a buddy for their bunnies, no bunny should be lonely after all! 
Our small but perfectly formed army of cat cuddlers did us proud last year! Mr P was rehomed in record time, snapped up within minutes of being listed online.

Potential rabbit adopters are provided with the loan of equipment and clear guidance on how to sensitively and slowly pair bunnies in the home and as a result we’ve seen far fewer rabbits returned and many more happy rabbits!

Another successful change this year is the admission and rehabilitation of new species. At the start of 2016 we opened our doors to the beloved pet rat. In July an abandonment case put our new ratty care skills to the test. A total of 53 rats were found abandoned. Someone had clearly allowed things to get out of hand and decided to abandon them all when they could no longer cope. Branches across the region were asked to take in what they could so we admitted 11 to start with, followed by another 12 the week after. Our 23 rats quickly doubled in number as the females began to give birth and we soon found our office had turned into the ‘rat room’. Sadly a number of the rats were in a terrible condition but we managed to rehome the majority of the poor little things, including all 20 babies which were born in our care. We now just have one rat left from that case, Rowan, an elderly gentleman who has been suffering with on/off respiratory issues but thankfully he’s found himself a long term foster home so he isn’t too concerned about being overlooked!
One of our many rats now happily settled in their forever home! A huge thanks to all our volunteers who popped into our office to socialise, clean and feed our little ones!

Our excitement at accepting rats into the branch was soon over shadowed by the arrival of the reptiles in March. With only one other branch licensed to keep reptiles in the North there was a growing need for somewhere local to house those rescued by the inspectors. So we launched the Reptile Rehabilitation and Rehoming Project in conjunction with the National RSPCA. We have purpose built facilities in our mini adoption centre at Pets at Home in Stockpor, kindly funded by Support Adoption for Pets. National RSPCA staff who run the centre have received specialist training to care for a variety species including bearded dragons, snakes and geckos. Rehoming started off slowly but by December we saw interest in our scaley friends increase and Jafar the bearded dragon, one of our first residents, found himself a fantastic home after waiting patiently since April. In 2016 we are proud to have admitted 25 and rehomed 15, sadly 5 had to be put to sleep due to severe health problems caused by the neglect they had suffered.

Copper is one of our reptiles currently available for adoption, see them all on our website!

The start of 2016 also saw another big change for us; we had to find a new private boarding facility for our cats. In an ideal world all of our feline friends would be in foster homes but sadly we never have enough so renting out space in a private cattery is the next best thing. Not having onsite accommodation for our animals can be tricky, it means lots of driving around, messaging back and forth and it involves a great deal of trust, but in February we made the necessary move and thankfully our cats have settled in well. Not only that but this year is the first time we have not had to close due to cat flu so that has helped towards our record rehoming figures too. 

We also welcomed a new member of staff to our small but perfectly formed team this year, Paul our new Head of Retail. Since his appointment in late 2015 our charity shops have exceeded all expectations and our retail staff have really given us everything they’ve got to raise as much money as possible for the animals. We can’t thank them enough for their hard work and commitment throughout 2016.

Deborah taking the plunge!
In summer it was time for us to be big and brave and do our annual fundraising challenge event. This normally involves us throwing ourselves off a building or walking across something painful but this year we went for minimal effort, maximum bravery and organised a sponsored head shave (Susie, branch manager, Deborah, animal welfare coordinator pictured left and Susie’s long suffering husband Steve taking the lead!). This event saw us raise over £2,500 and 6 months later we have just enjoyed our first hair cut! It gets harder each year to come up with new and exciting ways to raise money for our animals so please get in touch if you have any wacky, daredevil stunts for us to do!

As we trawl through our end of year stats we inevitably think of the animals that have come and gone over the past 12 months, this year feels like one woeful tale after the next when it comes to rabbits; with so many coming into our care from deplorable circumstances it’s inevitable that we should have some sad endings but we have had some truly wonderful bunnies in our care too who have warmed our hearts. 

Poppet - one of our staff favourites in 2016!
It’s hard to pick favourites (and to remember all of them!) but our stand out stars of 2016 have to be Clementine; a giant black baby rabbit who was found stray and then turned out to be a boy! Poppet (pictured) who despite being the runt of the litter and spending more time at the vets than we care to remember, has made it to her 5 month birthday and is now up for adoption, and Bobby who hands down wins hero of the year. He was just 8 weeks old when he came to us in April after being attacked from head to toe by his parents who were all locked in a tiny, filthy hutch together and had already had another litter of babies after him. Thankfully they were spotted by a neighbour and we managed to get him out just in time. He’s now 9 months old and has spent the past 7 months being rehabilitated in our branch manager Susie’s house!

Kurt finally got his dream home in 2016
We’ve seen some amazing cats pass through our cattery gates in 2016 and we’ve had a couple of special appeals for homes which have all been a massive success, but one character stands out above the rest, our handsome hunk Kurt. Kurt came to us in May after being found stray with an injured tail. He had to have the end amputated but was otherwise a healthy and happy chap. He waited for a home for two months but had no interest despite being placid, cat friendly and a gentle giant but in July he started to drink excessively. After a range of blood and urine tests he was diagnosed with renal dysfunction. This had us all in tears at the time, thinking we’d never find a home for him as if no one was interested before, why would someone want him now on a special diet and a shortened life expectancy but thankfully a miracle happened; a lovely lady came forward and Kurt is now living the high life as an owned and much loved companion animal.

Towards the end of the year we teamed up with Cats Protection to trial a new approach to our animal welfare work. A team of staff and volunteers went door to door offering free neutering, vaccinations and microchipping to cats and dogs in two targeted areas identified by data as potentially benefitting from this kind of support. We had a great response, especially in microchipping dogs, which in April became a legal requirement. So we are looking at rolling the scheme out in other areas in 2017 with our friends from Cats Protection.  

So as we say goodbye to 2016 and take a deep sigh of relief as we finish the last adoption pack, we can at least feel some satisfaction that a record breaking 498 unwanted animals are now safely tucked up inside their forever homes, preparing for a new year of regular meals, clean bedding and a loving carer. And none of that would be possible without the kindness of strangers, thank you to the 498 people who have chosen to adopt rather than shop for animals in 2016 and to those supporters who continually surprise and motivate us with donations, words of encouragement and their time. From team RSPCA M&S and the 88 animals currently in our care, thank you for all you have done to make 2016 a year to remember. Roll on 2017!