All animals deserve to be well treated

Crossbreed Honey with her new family, the McPhees. Picture: John Devlin
Crossbreed Honey with her new family, the McPhees. Picture: John Devlin
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An education programme aims to cut the number of cases of cruelty and neglect which Scottish SPCA sees every week, reports Mike Flynn

Honey was horrendously thin when she was rescued by the Scottish SPCA. Found wandering cold and alone on a beach near Ayr by a member of the public, the young crossbreed dog was taken to our animal rescue and rehoming centre in Glasgow for emergency treatment.

We were worried she may not make it through the night. Honey weighed just 14kgs, which is around half the weight she should have been. Her ribs and spine were clearly visible and she had trouble standing.

However, thanks to our supporters, vets and rehoming team, Honey pulled through. Today she’s happy and healthy and living with a family who love her.

Fanta was found in Kirkcaldy with horrific burns to his ears and face. We believe the poor cat was possibly targeted with an ignited aerosol spray. Although Fanta was in terrible pain, he recovered in our care and eventually found his forever home.

We are saddened and sickened when animals are neglected and abused – a reaction we know is shared by the vast majority of the Scottish public.

The harsh reality is, neither Honey nor Fanta’s stories are unique: many more animals arrive in our care having suffered the most appalling cruelty.

Often these animals are frightened, do not know what it’s like to be loved and have to learn to trust people again.

Yet this is not always the case. Amazingly, many of these animals are still full of joy and spirit, despite enduring terrible suffering. Their faith in humans can at times be both heart-warming and heart-breaking, given what they have been through.

The Scottish SPCA does not put healthy animals to sleep, a policy we are tremendously proud of, and we do all we can to help sick, injured and neglected animals recover, giving them the food, warmth and veterinary care they desperately need. Frequently this includes expensive operations and long-term rehabilitation.

There is no greater sight than watching an animal being nursed back to health and leaving our centres for a new life with fantastic new owners. However, this isn’t always possible.

Tragically, sometimes an animal has been so badly treated they don’t survive or vets advise that euthanasia is the kindest decision to relieve and end their pain.

We must wonder why animals like Honey and Fanta are neglected, abused and left to suffer. Animals do not become as thin as Honey overnight and no animal should ever be tortured. These acts were not only incredibly cruel but were also criminal offences.

Although we did not receive the information we needed to identify either person responsible in these two incidents, last year an average of one person every week was banned from owning animals following our investigations.

While we would say Scotland remains a nation of animal lovers, this statistic is a sobering reminder of the importance of education. This is also why “prevention” is not just at the heart of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty’s name but also at the very heart of our work.

The Scottish SPCA will always be here for defenceless animals in need of our help. But we passionately believe prevention is better than cure.

Last year our free Prevention through Education programme for Scottish schools reached a record 300,000 children, an achievement we may eclipse in 2014. This is the largest programme of its kind in the UK and has required huge investment, which we are certain will have a profound impact on animal welfare in Scotland for generations to come.

We can only again wonder what might have been, had Honey’s previous owner or the person who attacked Fanta learned to treat animals with the care and respect they deserve.

• Mike Flynn MBE is chief superintendent of the Scottish SPCA