Pet rescue cry for help

The number of unwanted rabbits arriving in to the Scottish SPCA's care in recent years has increased, according to statistics.  Picture: Ian Georgeson
The number of unwanted rabbits arriving in to the Scottish SPCA's care in recent years has increased, according to statistics. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A wide variety of beasts await new caring owners, says Mike Flynn

During the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Rabbit Awareness Week in July, we announced a 40 per cent increase in the number of unwanted rabbits arriving in our care in recent years – more than 760 cases in 2012 compared to fewer than 550 in 2008.

This rise is indicative of the strain on our rescue and rehoming centres across Scotland, with animals being taken in every day of the year. We do everything we can to find these poor souls loving new homes and we are very proud of our policy not to 
put any healthy animals to sleep.

Last year, we rehomed more than 6,200 rescue pets. While in many respects this was a staggering figure, one of our key challenges is to encourage more potential owners to think of rehoming animals rather than buying from a breeder or a pet shop.

Although the vast majority of the public know that we save animals, awareness that we also find pets loving new homes could be higher.

Rehoming a rescued pet can be extremely rewarding. While some animals, particularly dogs, will need extra training, greater understanding and may take a little time to settle into their new surroundings, this is often only because their previous owners have shown them no affection and ignored their responsibilities.

We always try to match the animals in our care to the right homes, which can mean choosing families without young children if we don’t know a dog’s history, or ensuring that breeds such as collies are rehomed with owners who will give them the exercise and stimulation they need.

A particular concern is the misguided public perception of Staffordshire bull terriers. Last year, we conducted research which demonstrated that 75 per cent of potential dog owners would not consider taking on a staffie.

Many of the people who told us they wouldn’t rehome a staffie said they believed them to be dangerous and could not be trusted, an unfair stereotype which is largely due to irresponsible owners and the negative portrayal of the breed in the media.

Sadly, this view is often reflected when the public visit our animal rescue and rehoming centres and say they would like to rehome a dog but they don’t want to view any of our staffies.

Yet the Staffordshire bull terrier is inherently no more aggressive than any other breed. In fact, staffies tend to be gentle, affectionate and loyal, and it’s a tragedy that so many of these fantastic dogs are in kennels and usually have to wait longer than more popular breeds to find new homes.

Exotic pets

A further concern is an increase in the number of abandoned and unwanted exotic pets, including terrapins, tortoises, bearded dragons and snakes. These animals require expert knowledge and care and therefore shouldn’t be rehomed on a whim.

Many people buy terrapins when they are tiny, thinking they’ll be an easy pet to keep, but they live for a long time and can grow to the size of a dinner plate. We have lots of terrapins in our rehoming centres and it isn’t always easy finding them the homes they need.

Our new television advert promotes rehoming and is designed to help us find homes for our dogs, cats, rabbits, small animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs and ferrets, birds, horses, donkeys and exotic pets.

Rehoming

While no-one should ever rehome an animal on impulse, we’re hopeful that our advert will encourage people to think about giving a rescue pet a second chance. Every dog and cat we rehome is neutered, subject to veterinary advice, vaccinated, microchipped and treated against fleas and worms. While we ask for a rehoming fee of up to £125 for a dog and £90 for a cat, the cost of neutering and providing a dog and cat with these treatments at a private veterinary practice could be more than £300.

Our rehoming fees help towards our costs, which are substantial. These include rescuing animals from situations where they are in danger or distress and providing on-going veterinary care and treatment where required, which can be very expensive.

Another significant outlay is food, with neglected animals often requiring special weight-gain diets.

We don’t receive any government or lottery funding, which means we rely on support from the Scottish public to continue our work. The rescue pets in our care also rely on new owners coming forward. So please visit our website at www.scottishspca.org – and consider giving these animals the homes they deserve.

• Mike Flynn MBE is chief superintendent of the Scottish SPCA www.scottishspca.org

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