From the day that lockdown was announced on 23rd March to 31st May we have admitted 176 animals: this is a huge amount by anyone’s standards but especially for our branch. It is entirely thanks to the determination and dedication of our team of staff and volunteers that we have provided this essential service to animal welfare. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved and how we have stepped up to help the National RSPCA inspectorate when they have needed us the most. It has, however, come at a cost. On veterinary care alone we have spent over £13,000. It’s a staggering amount and I have worked tirelessly to source funding wherever I could. On the flip side it is tangible proof that we have been there for the animals in need and our colleagues in the field. If you can help by donating a few pounds towards our vet bill please click here!

Shirley and Bassey – found at 12 weeks old in a garden. They have been in foster care for 4 weeks being socialised and will be released for rehoming soon. Keep an eye on our website

This week has been like the past few: draining, upsetting and frustrating. We all ‘feel’ it when it is like this and I’ve grappled with whether or not to share the details of a particularly distressing history of two of the new arrivals this week. Instead, I’ve decided just to share the pictures, because I think they probably say all that is needed to be said. What breaks my heart, every time, is when an animal has been subjected to cruelty and/or neglect and they are just so friendly and loving, and that’s what these two are. Give it a couple of months and they will hopefully be unrecognisable. If you’d like to buy one of these poor mites a treat don’t forget we have an Amazon wishlist!

In total 7 cats/kittens and 14 rabbits have arrived in the last 7 days, so definitely not a quiet week! Although because we have had so many amazing offers of homes for animals we actually have empty spaces! A phenomenal 68 animals have gone to new homes in May: 35 cats, 21 rabbits and 12 guinea pigs. That surpasses our previous rehoming record for one month, which was in January this year. I am incredibly grateful for the public support and for people choosing to adopt from us, because it means we can continue to manage the volume of animals needing to come in.

Socialising our little rabbit residents!
Clever babies going straight to the cabbage stash!

It has, however, been another difficult week with loss. Frustratingly we have lost more baby bunnies from the big case, taking the tally up to 11. You cannot underestimate how upsetting it is for a staff member to come in on a morning to the sight, especially when you left them the night before bouncing around. It just goes to show what poor conditions they came from and what little chance they stood of surviving, even with the best care available. We’ve had to say goodbye to two adult cats and a rabbit this week too, all because they had been left to deteriorate when their owners couldn’t afford their care. It is a really sad aspect of our work and can be profoundly upsetting for staff and volunteers alike. You often feel like you have failed but in reality we are picking up the pieces when it is all too often too late. Sadly, I start Monday morning with one of those jobs. I have to take Malachi the cat to be put to sleep. A specialist has reviewed his x-rays and leg amputation is not the answer, the source of his pain is from his badly healed broken hip. The pain relief he has been on has not made a difference, and we just can’t leave him to live life in pain. I have gradually broken the news to the team and just hope they can look back on the last six weeks whilst he was in our care enjoying the comfort and peace he very clearly seemed to enjoy each day.

Malachi was often found snoozing! Sadly we just couldn’t fix him and to stop any further pain we made the horrible decision for him to be put to sleep last week. Our staff and volunteers are comforted by the fact he had 6 weeks with us and knew what it felt to be loved towards the end.

Moving out of lockdown

How we rehome animals as we move out of lockdown is not going to change. With us having a small centre and network of foster carers the only way we can realistically maintain social distancing is to carry on as we are with virtual meet-and-greets and virtual home visits. Adaptability seems to have been the key to our success so far during the crisis and we will continue to be reactive and change whenever required. Our next challenge to face is with our 5 charity shops, as non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen from 15th June (providing reasonable measures can be put in place to manage risk and social distancing).

A friend messaged me this week to say I must be pleased that our shops can reopen on 15th June. The reality of the situation is that it is hugely fraught. Charity retail shopping is going to be no different than any other shopping experience during the pandemic. To maintain social distancing inside the shop we will have to:

  1. limit the numbers of customers allowed in at one time (this could be as few as 1 in some of our shops, as they are so small)
  2. reduce staffing levels, to ensure less people are on site
  3. have no volunteers helping for the time being, again to keep numbers on site to a minimum.

To make it financially worthwhile to take our retail staff off furlough we will have to:

  1. keep overheads down by operating on skeleton staffing
  2. reduce opening hours/days to help staff manage the workload and keep the shop replenished because we cannot have volunteers on site to help.
  3. manage a system that allows donations to be safely received and sorted.

It is going to be a huge challenge to raise enough income to make it financially worthwhile reopening with such constraints. I’m also really worried about donations drying up. My biggest concern of all though? Safeguarding the staff’s well-being. I have great trepidation about placing them in a public facing role, which is why no-one is being made to return to work, instead I asked members of the team to volunteer to come back. Chorlton shop will be our first shop to reopen on 17th June, where we will continually risk assess and rehearse safety practices to see whether it is viable. I just know one thing for certain: the future of charity retail income generation is worrying.

Remember the Police kittens from last week’s blog? They are doing really well in foster. Hopefully they will thrive and be up for adoption in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our website
Police kittens learning what people are all about!
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