Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Channel 4 breaking story

The Times today have covered Channel 4's big exclusive which will be on tonight at 7pm. I've known about this for a few days as I was asked to quote - but as it's embargoed, I couldn't say!
Henry, the head of the RSPCA press office, has been on the blower again this morning saying this isn't really such a big story, honest. Which is exactly what you would expect from a good press officer.
It does all sound terribly thrilling from a journalist's point of view - leaked memos and all that. Sounds a real scoop. But as he points out,  in reality the memos just show what's been happening for quite a while. But for some members of the general public, this will be news in itself. Most of the public still think we take stray dogs to the local RSPCA or the police station!
Those in the know are painfully aware that Britain's rescue kennels have been full to overflowing for ages, it's just the public who haven't been privy to it.
Perhaps this story will spread the news that there isn't a queue of people ready to help you should adversity strike. Far from it.
My own experience of trying to help a terminally ill man find a space for his middle-aged, perfectly behaved dog taught me that lesson. He had knocked on every door and been graphic about the fact he was dying and about to go into hospital for the last time. He'd sold his house and all his belongings. He would have probably given the person who solved his problems everything he owned just to make his pet safe. He had no relatives. Yet still there was no one offering to help!
He was just advised to have his lovely dog put to sleep.
(Thankfully, I phoned the Dogs Trust press office and they found him a place - so the guy died happy, but when he had tried their branches he'd been turned away - they were full.)
If the RSPCA are now even less likely to take in animals when someone dies or is evicted - because in future they're trying to keep their kennels empty for cruelty cases, where will these poor unfortunate animals go?
I'm guessing heaven.
The figures show that the RSPCA is currently a significant rehomer - 85,000 animals rehomed in 2008. If there's no longer to be  room at their inn, who knows where the overflow is going to go? Henry says most of those animals are part of cruelty cases in any case so there'll be no sudden crisis or change of policy, he says they've 'not had room for people chucking out dogs that don't match the sofa for quite some time'.
It seems clear the RSPCA want to concentrate on enforcement and leave the routine rehoming of plain unwanteds to other charities - but most of those have a lot less money.
Yet as Henry points out, the RSPCA  also run a Homes for Life policy, where you can arrange for them to take your dogs after you die. But doesn't that give a mixed message to the mostly elderly people that scheme would appeal to?
Do the public yet grasp enforcement and prosecution is their USP? What about those who have already donated? At the time of donating were these people quite clear where their money was going and what it would be used for?
It's a difficult time for all charities, but those leaked memos are unlikely to increase donations to the RSPCA.
Be interesting to see all the interviews in the Channel 4 item tonight so we can all make our minds up.
We really do need the puppy contract to stop people churning out pups to make ends meet. There are just too many unwanted dogs in Britain already.

Some links:
BVA response to the article in the Times.
RSPCA press release
And via Twitter the alleged same 'leaked memo' openly on an RSPCA website


cambstreasurer said...

Beverly - as a good journalist I know you can't reveal your sources, but it would be interesting to know whether you have any suspicion that this story was intentionally placed to do maximum damage to fundraising during RSPCA week.

Julia said...

I have to say this doesn't come as a surprise. My local RSPCA have had very few spaces for rehoming each time I've been to see them in the past couple of years due to cruelty cases - my two dogs are two of the lucky ones.

It's a difficult question. It costs a lot of money to rescue dogs, and if kennels are full then sadly there seems to be no option but to put them to sleep.

I was thinking about this with your staffy story earlier today, which I found quite upsetting. I would gladly pay for a licence (after all, my dogs already cost me a small fortune) and to see the fees go on things like compulsory micro chipping, no breeding without a special licence and compulsory neutering for all except licensed breeders. But I realise all this is far too simplistic and that enforcement would most probably be nigh on impossible.

Anonymous said...

One of the comments after the Times piece says:

The RSPCA itself spends £75 million on staff, admin, advertising ect before any animal is looked after.

Is this true? If so, the RSPCA should be investigated for gross mismanagement of funds! How can it spend more of its income running itself than on actually doing the thing it was set up to do?

I shall be interested to watch the programme tonight. In my opinion, the small, grass-roots charities are more cost-effective, saving more dogs per £1 than the shiny blue-chip-type corporates anyway!

kate price said...

I'm sorry but I can partly see why they have chosen to do this.
Like other rehoming centres, the RSPCA are full of unwanted dogs, cats, small furries etc.
Until now, the cruelty cases are mainly boarded in private kennels, many for more than a year whilst cases go on. This costs thousands of pounds in boarding fees for these "RSPCA cases". These cases shouldn't be palmed off on private kennels as they are real RSPCA cruelty cases that should be looked after and cared for by the RSPCA in their centres. This will also save money that can be spent elsewhere. Maybe even more centres will be built.
I think at the moment for "some", handing your unwanted pet over to the RSPCA is a quick and easy option. A classic example is "Ive just had a baby and now do not want my dog that Ive had for ten years". Maybe this will make people think twice before having that easy option.
Im also sure that not EVERY pet will be turned away and that it will be down to the discretion of the staff depending on the circumstances.

Nicola said...

Most of us are aware how many animals the RSPCA inspectors are forced to euthanase every single day because their rehoming centres are always full. The same problem occurs in their hospitals, thousands of dogs and cats euthanase because they can’t get them into their own rehoming centres. I for one am glad they have this new policy in place.