Top animal charities spend £500 million a year saving unwanted animals.

Are animal re-homing charities failing animals?

We all know that the thousands of animal “re-homing” charities in the UK and around the world are doing wonderful work in finding new homes for hundreds of thousands of animals each year, because they are quick to tell us so and we see their great work depicted on television documentaries and in the press. As donating public we revel in the glow of sad stories and happy endings of animals finding forever homes and for this reason we throw millions at these charities to enable them to continue.

The top eight UK charities spend £500,000,000 each year to support the infrastructure to “save” and “rescue” animals from us humans. In the case of the Dog’s Trust, the UK’s leading dog charity, this works out at £8,100 per dog to care for and re-home the 13,141 dogs (2017 figures).

It would seem on the surface that the animal re-homing charities are doing a really good job and making the most of the money we give to them, but should they judge their success by the number of animals they take in and re-home or by what they are accomplishing in reducing numbers in the first place.

The Humane Societies of the United States (HSUS) is constantly criticised for not giving enough of their funds to animal shelters, but they once succinctly responded by declaring that their aim was to “prevent cruelty and stop animals entering animal shelters in the first place”. It could be argued that the re-homing charities are perpetuating the problem of irresponsible pet ownership by offering a free service to accommodate and re-cycle unwanted pets, strengthening the creed that they are disposable objects.

Each year the number of unwanted and abandoned animals never seems to decrease.

Are animal shelters just re-cycling plants for irresponsible owners.

Each year the major UK animal re-homing charities take in tens of thousands of unwanted dogs, over a hundred thousand cats, thousands of horses and donkeys and hundreds of thousands of rabbits and other small animals. All these figures could probably be doubled, trebled or even quadrupled if you consider the numbers taken in by the hundreds of smaller UK charities.

Local authorities supposedly dealt with 7,000 stray, abandoned and unwanted dogs in 2017 of which over 2,000 were put to sleep although these figures seem far too low. The Cats Protection charity alone cares for nearly 50,000 cats annually.

If official figures are correct, we are supposedly getting on top of the abandoned and stray dog numbers on the streets, but half of the dogs that the Dog’s Trust accept, 6,500 (2017 figures), are strays from local authorities. Any slight decrease is more than matched by the increasing number handed into animal rescue centres by fickle owners so the status quo remains despite continuing campaigns and free neutering. This results in more facilities opening to cope with the continual flood. To make matters worse we are increasingly importing other countries’ stray and unwanted animals. We have had a cat and horse crisis for several years now and an increasing problem of unwanted exotic pets which has resulted in even more charities to rescue them.

While charities are happy to continue picking up the burden there is no incentive for the government or the law to intervene or take notice. The UK Government almost entirely washes it hands of the subject and even relies on animal charities to collate figures on the state of our animal keeping habits such as the RSPCA with their cruelty figures and the PDSA with their PAWS survey otherwise we would have no idea of the problems.

Kittens, rescue, animal rescue,, abandoned, unwanted
The number of stray and unwanted cats in the UK is incalculable.

There must be more to animal welfare than just re-homing dogs and cats.

The charities will argue that they only exist for this purpose, but surely this is a short-sighted outlook and instead of proudly proclaiming the increasing numbers they are finding homes for, they should strive to decrease the numbers becoming unwanted in the first place.  There must be more to animal welfare than just re-homing dogs and cats, but most charities seem happy to just tread water, accept the status quo and never make inroads into solving the major welfare problems. Do we just accept this as a fact of life and money well spent or should we expect more from them? Perhaps it is time for a completely new mind-set.

Veterinary charities promote irresponsible pet ownership.

Charities are paying for people to own animals.

In the UK there is one main charity dedicated to providing assisted or free veterinary treatment to the pets of ‘impoverished’ owners and several other charities such as the Blue Cross and RSPCA who also offer similar services among their other endeavours.

The number of animals receiving treatment and the amount of money expended is huge and all because owners are unable or unwilling to fulfill one of their basic moral responsibilities to the animals in their care: the ability to protect them from pain and suffering. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it a legal obligation for owners to have this capability under their duty of care.

In 2017 the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) provided over 2,000,000 treatments to 500,000 pets at a colossal cost of over £70 million although the total cost of providing the service is £100,000,000 each year. At the time of writing they run 48 treatment centres and have an agreement to pay for assisted treatment with nearly 400 private vet surgeries.

PDSA veterinary charity, logo

The Blue Cross which has a third of the income of the PDSA and only 4 hospitals provided treatment to another 28,000 animals at a cost of over £10 million. The RSPCA treated a further 130,000 and Wood Green Animal Shelters (WGAS) 11,000 pets.

It’s almost as though they are trying to set up a NHS for animals.

Donations to the PDSA and Blue Cross are constantly increasing, and they are continually expanding their facilities to provide for more patients in different areas of the country. All the charities are rightly proud of their achievements and the public obviously agree as we bombard them with legacies and donations. But the more money donated bizarrely has the knock-on effect of needing to find a use for it under the terms of their aims and policies and they have to build more facilities and offer more services which in turn encourages more irresponsible ownership. It is almost as though the veterinary charities are trying to set up a NHS for animals and put the private veterinary practice out of a job.

Many owners may feel that this would be a very good idea, but the problem is that such a service takes away an owners’ responsibility for the care of their pets and encourages more people to acquire pets which they can little afford.

Blue Cross charity, veterinary treatment, free treatment for pets

Both charities are predicting large increases in numbers and excitedly forecast great expansion for the future  as though they are a corporate industry dependent on increased business and profits.

The Blue Cross expects their treatment numbers to increase from 28,000 in 2017 to 36,000 in 2019 and in 2018 have “expanded” into Wales by building a clinic there and new clinics in Ashford, Luton, Torbay and York because “more people are relying on the Blue Cross to help their sick and injured pets”. The PDSA are building a £2.4 million “wellbeing” centre in Manchester “with dedicated wellbeing facilities to help local people provide everything their pet needs to be happy and healthy”

Providing free services only encourages reckless ownership.

Not only do these charities provide essential veterinary treatment, but they go out of their way and spend huge sums on providing the basic health requirements such as neutering, vaccinating, worming, flea control and micro-chipping animals in the mistaken belief that in some way this will solve the problems of reckless and uninformed ownership. It has reached the stage where veterinary charities are paying for people to own pets. Is this really a sensible way of spending all this money?

Cat, buster collar, neutering,
Charities are providing neutering, micro-chipping, vaccinations and other preventative treatments which any responsible owner should be able to provide without help.

At the very least all owners should be able to pay for these basic requirements. Charities have been doing this for at least four decades and it is clear by the rising numbers that it has had little if any effect on reducing the numbers of unwanted and stray companion animals or making pet owners more The problem with providing subsidised services.responsible.

Whether we like the inference or not all owned animals are captive animals, just like zoo animals, and if a person cannot provide adequately for them during their captivity they should not be allowed to own or keep them.

The problem with providing subsidised services.

In the same way that some critics view re-homing charities as counter-productive it is the same with veterinary charities whose emphasis should be on reducing numbers they treat and targeting the prevention of animals going into them in the first place. The PDSA do appear to be seeing the error of their past ways as they are reducing the number of animals per person that they will treat from three to only one. They have also recently changed their policy on providing assisted treatment through local private vets.

While once working at a large charity hospital in London I can remember a time when there was no restriction and human nature being what it is some owners amassed a dozen animals that they regularly brought in. Not only that but owners falsified their ‘poverty’ status by using ‘proof of benefit’ of other people.

The sheer presence of the PDSA, Blue Cross and RSPCA  discourages owners in certain sections of society from obtaining pet insurance or putting money aside for emergencies, as they see no need to when they can get free or subsidised treatment at one of these local clinics.

Most clinics are congregated in cities and large urban areas where the perceived poverty and greatest pet ownership is concentrated, and their arbitrary coverage causes problems when owners, who having become reliant, decide to move to an area that has no such service. They are shocked and indignant that there is no free or assisted treatment available, which often results in their pets suffering through lack of treatment or in some cases being put to sleep.

Owning a pet is not a civil right.

The benefit system is embedded in the psyche in the UK and owners believe they are ‘entitled’ in some way to get help for the care of their pets mainly because veterinary charities give them this false impression. For many people it is a deliberate act to take on pets knowing they do not have the finances or circumstances to look after them, as they are well aware charities will never turn them away in the same way as private vets do, but the crux of the matter is that they shouldn’t own them in the first place.

In this context operating charity veterinary clinics and hospitals is a short-sighted activity with no long-term benefits to animals in general as it does little to tackle the problem at source and costs millions in financing which could be spent on more vital animal welfare issues. The emphasis should be on phasing out such services and concentrating on restricting people from keeping animals if we are ever to tackle irresponsible ownership. The message that owning an animal is some kind of a civil right, regardless of circumstances, needs countering.