Our long term volunteer Hannah takes a wander around our first ever animal centre!

Time flies as they say and when it comes to volunteering for RSPCA Manchester & Salford I can certainly concur. I totted up my years of service today and I’m on year 11 after starting volunteering whilst I was at University at the tender age of 21! One day I randomly decided I would quite like to be a volunteer home visitor (visiting potential adopter’s homes to make sure they are ready for their new arrivals!) and rang the branch. I spoke to our branch manager Susie who nearly bit my hand off with the offer. It turned out there was training set up for the following week, talk about meant to be… I was soon consumed by this amazing charity and the thrill I got from physically seeing the difference I could make.

Fast-forward to today and I’m now a ‘jack of all trades’ volunteer running the branch’s social media (not Insta, Michelle does this!), updating the website, fostering guinea pigs, helping at events, designing the promotion posters and other general admin as well as still home visiting. I’ve not counted how many home visits I’ve done but I’d guess at around 300. So it’s safe to say that I’m pretty invested in the branch and when the news broke that they would finally be opening their first animal centre I was extremely excited.   The branch has always used private boarding and foster homes to keep it’s animals. Whilst having an animal centre is very hard work and there’s lots of health and safety hoops to jump through the benefits to the branch are immense. It’s a novelty to have your animals all in one place for a start! Last weekend I was invited to visit the centre and I thought I’d report back on what I found and ways that you can help…

**Warning: you may be writing a similar blog in 11 years time once you get the RSPCA M&S bug!**

The centre is located in a rented warehouse unit in Salford that has been fitted out with bespoke animal accommodation for up to 18 cats, 32 rabbits and multiple small furries ie. mice, hamsters, rats and guinea pigs. The centre supports the work of the National RSPCA inspectorate and provides them, for the first time ever, with access to a rehoming centre dedicated to small animals. It means they can bring any small furries they rescue direct to a place of safety (us!) where they will be well looked after until they are ready to be rehomed or moved to another branch for adoption. Although we are a separate charity to the National RSPCA we work closely with them, after all they need somewhere to place all the animals they rescue…!

The most striking thing about the new centre is now bright it is. The centre is actually in a warehouse type building (one big space and then a few smaller rooms coming off and an upstairs with two rooms). Our builders have built the cattery and rabbit pens in the ‘big space’ and the cat isolation area is separate in a small room that comes off the main entrance hall. The pens are fantastic and the animals have lots of space, air con and all the luxuries of most Air B n B’s!    

You’ll see that the rabbits and cats are kept very separate (we don’t want any stressed bunnies!) and there’s a corridor between them. As well as the general rabbit and cat areas we also have separate cat and rabbit isolation areas which are vital. We’ve had to temporarily close our private boarding cattery so many times due to cat flu brought in by poorly cats. Now new arrivals can be kept separately and monitored, hooray!

The rabbit ‘zone’ gives each rabbit a large amount of space so we can fill it with furniture such as stools and boxes for them to play on/in. On one side the rabbit pens are actually expandable so if a large rescue comes in (rescues of 50-100 rabbits at a time not being uncommon sadly) changes can be made to accommodate everyone whilst we health check, sex and separate as needed.

Whilst the cats and rabbits are cared for downstairs, upstairs there’s a small animal room where we currently have 4 C&C pens for guinea pigs as well as rat, mice and chinchilla housing. There’s also the main office for staff and a little spare corridor space with a few chairs (work in progress!). The office has a window that looks out on to the animals, how great is that? We are still in the process of tweaking the small animal area so I’ll save pictures for another day. We’ve already got several mice for adoption so do check out our website!

Within 2 days of opening the centre we agreed to help an RSPCA inspector who had a case with 45+ rabbits in need of rehoming (all from one home!). They all dutifully arrived and have been distracting us with their adorableness ever since! Many are too young to go up for adoption just yet but when they are ready they will be listed on the website and Facebook.

As well as getting to cuddle lots of baby bunnies (it’s a hard life I know) I did do some actual work and took photos of rabbits ready for adoption, gave everyone their tea (cabbage and hay) and made sure everyone was okay before building some more rat cages upstairs. Apparently lots of people have been contacting the branch offering help and looking to adopt animals which is fantastic. If I’ve inspired you to get involved please the ways you could help below. However, big or small your contribution it does make a difference.

Hannah x

Ways you can help!

  – Become a volunteer at the centre: we have various roles still available on our team of volunteers. Whether you like cats, mice, rabbits, piggies or all of the above it’s likely we’ll have a role for you. We particularly need reception cover and home visitors (how I began in 2008!). Check out the list below and if you are interested email rspcamcr_salford@btconnect.com

– We need your newspapers: with so many bunnies in our care we get through lots of newspaper. If you have any that you’d like to donate we’ll be sure to make good use! Donations can be left at any of our charity shops.

Donate unwanted items to our charity shops: our charity shops are in desperate for your donations! We then sell them to raise the money we need to run the centre. We take clothing, bags, books, belts, small electricals, bric a brac and jewellery. They are located in Chorlton, Didsbury, Northern Quarter (city centre), Urmston and Withington.

– Make a one-off or regular donation: the branch is a separate charity to the National RSPCA and other branches. We have to raise the funds to run ourselves. You can set up a direct debit or just make a one-off donation via Just Giving. Every pound helps run the centre. Click here for more information.

– Adopt, don’t shop! we have lots of animal waiting for new homes, all neutered, chipped and vaccinated (where applicable). So if you or someone you know is looking for a new addition to their family tell them to check out our website or Facebook page which are both updated daily!