Pet theory for tales of woe as RSPCA caseload soars in Brighton

Posted On 08 May 2012 at 1:03 am

For a nation of animal lovers the picture could be better. The RSPCA has reported a big rise in the number of pets being treated cruelly and an increase in the number abandoned.

And it’s harder to persuade people to take on the expense of another mouth to feed when times are tough so the task of rehoming is more of a challenge than ever.

The recession is being blamed as more animals are dumped and mistreated.

The charity’s kennels at Patcham have been particularly busy. And staff are preparing for an influx of thousands of unwanted chickens to add to the dozens of cats and dogs, hamsters, rabbits, snakes and other reptiles already in their care.

Recently released figures show that in the South East alone 450 people were reported to the RSPCA team that brings prosecutions for cruelty in the past year – 50 more than the year before.

The charity said that it was reluctant to bring cases to court. But there were 366 convictions for cruelty to dogs compared with 266 the year before.

And the worst cases led to the courts jailing 13 people compared with seven in 2010.

In West Sussex 35 cases were reported for prosecution with 17 convictions being secured. In East Sussex there were 24 defendants reported and seven convictions.

Struggling

Sally Bruce, South East regional manager, said: “The RSPCA strives to keep animals with their owners wherever possible and offers advice on improving their welfare.

“Overwhelmingly this advice is followed, but where it isn’t, or where someone has already harmed an animal, there has to be a way of ensuring that animals are not left to suffer and the RSPCA is the charity people turn to.

“We are struggling to continue providing this service. Of course we work closely with governmental and other charitable organisations, but we are the main organisation which prosecutes those who abuse animals and which can prevent cruelty to animals.”

The picture was reinforced by Jenny Wells, manager of the Patcham kennels.

She said: “The recession definitely hasn’t helped. Some people through no fault of their own are no longer able to afford to keep their animals. It’s obviously a long-term commitment.

“It’s gone up by about 50 per cent – the number of people who phone up and say they can’t afford to keep their animal any longer.

“People do need to think really carefully about the long-term commitment of taking on any pet – not just financially but the time needed for exercise and company.

“We’ve got a lot of adult cats from about a year to eight years old. We’ve got about 50 cats and 30 dogs. We’ve got a lovely Staffie (Staffordshire bull terrier) called Daisy. She’s 14 months old.

Bad publicity

“Staffies make lovely family pets although they’ve had a lot of bad publicity. But often it’s the owner’s fault – not the dog’s!

“Pitbulls need a licence but Staffies don’t come under the Dangerous Dogs Act. A lot of them respond very well to being loved and cared for.

“We would only rehome an animal that’s safe. We’re a responsible organisation.

“We have reptiles of all sorts. They’ve become quite popular but people don’t always think about the long-term commitment. They live a long time.

“And we’ve got quite a few small animals – about 30 hamsters and rabbits.”

The kennels – at the end of Braypool Lane in Patcham – are open every day except Mondays from 10.30am until 4pm and don’t close for lunch.

They are a shelter for abandoned and rescued animals but also a popular rehoming centre.

Volunteers

Apart from looking for loving homes for neglected and abandoned animals, Jenny said that they also needed donations and volunteers.

The Patcham site alone costs £500,000 a year to run even though it relies heavily on volunteers. Mind you the national budget is £124 million a year.

Many of the 16 staff at Patcham are part-time. And the volunteer roles cover everything from walking dogs and caring for other animals to reception desk work and admin.

The charity doesn’t just rescue animals and prosecute the worst owners. It also offers advice and help, including a free neutering service for cats and dogs owned by people on low incomes.

Last week was RSPCA Week 2012 so everyone was busier than usual. But Jenny said that the work goes on. That of course includes caring for the animals at the shelter, trying to find suitable homes and of course raising funds.

The organisation’s chief executive Gavin Grant reinforced the key points about cruelty, neglect and the need for funds.

He said: “The RSPCA faces a crisis that is stretching us to breaking point.

“We show zero tolerance to animal abusers. Anyone causing animals pain for profit or pleasure will be tracked down and prosecuted.

“We need the courts and councils, police and people who care to join us in standing up and getting justice for Britain’s abused animals.”

Survival

He said that there were some amazing stories of survival including a lurcher-type dog which survived against all the odds after two men broke her back and stabbed her with a potato peeler. They then dumped her and left her to die.

Thanks to the efforts of RSPCA and veterinary staff, Maggie May has a fantastic new life in a lovely new home.

And Beethoven, the dog from the “house of horror”, was also left to die along with another dog, two cats and two small animals.

While the others all suffered a painful and slow death from starvation, incredibly Beethoven survived, was rescued and now has a great new life.

The happy endings to stories of neglect are only possible with the support of the public, Mr Grant said, highlighting the £15 typical cost of feeding, housing and providing medical care for an average dog.

Taz with his rescuers and his new owner

Taz’s tale has a happy ending. The eight-year-old border collie was overfed and under-exercised when he was rescued from a flat in Brighton a few years ago.

At six stone (40kg) he was more than twice his ideal weight. His claws were overgrown and it was apparent that he was hardly ever walked.

The animal welfare team at Brighton and Hove City Council, led by Sue Watson, stepped in and rescued Taz. His previous owner was prosecuted, fined and banned from keeping dogs for a year.

Magistrates also ordered that Taz should be rehomed. Having slimmed down, Taz has enjoyed a new lease of life with new owner Colin Harman. He is thriving, having shed nearly half his body weight.

Taz’s previous owner was also ordered by the court to pay kennel fees of £1,477.

After the case Sue Watson said: “Its the right result for Taz. He can get the care and attention he needs and that he has been deprived of for so long.”

Even when the recession ends, cases of animal cruelty will almost inevitably continue.

But people like Jenny Wells and Sue Watson and their colleagues are working hard to ensure that all creatures great and small are given the best possible chance.

Neglect in numbers

The RSPCA reported a stark rise in cases of cruelty and neglect so serious that they led to cases being brought to court.

  • 1.3 million calls were made to the RSPCA in 2011
  • 2,105 people were convicted for cruelty to dogs – up 22 per cent
  • 1,341 others were convicted for cruelty or neglect to pets – up 23.5 per cent
  • 1,100 people were disqualified from keeping pets – up 21 per cent
  • 74 people were jailed – up 27 per cent
  • 3,036 people were reported to the RSPCA prosecutions department – up 9.3 per cent

Pets were not the only victims. Cases involving farm animals also rose last year with, for example, 230 convictions for being cruel to or neglecting equines such as horses.

In the South East of England

  • 366 people were convicted for cruelty to dogs – up almost 40 per cent on the 266 convictions in 2010
  • 184 others were convicted for cruelty or neglect – up 2.2 per cent on the 180 convictions in 2010
  • 147 people were disqualified from keeping pets – up nearly 20 per cent on the 125 disqualifications in 2010
  • 13 people were jailed by the courts – almost double the 7 sent to prison in 2010
  • 450 people were reported to the RSPCA prosecutions department – up 12.5 per cent on the 400 reports in 2010

In West Sussex 35 people were reported to the RSPCA prosecutions department and 17 were convicted.

In East Sussex 24 people were reported to the RSPCA prosecutions department and 7 were convicted.

 

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