East Croydon Cool talks…Pets in Lockdown

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with Natalia Restrepo, a Trustee from RSPCA Croydon, which is a branch of the RSPCA that helps local animals in need. As we approach a year of life in intermittent lockdowns, we found out more about the impact it’s had on Croydon’s animals and how this local charity and its volunteers have been helping.

How is RSPCA Croydon set up and managed?
The branch is a separately registered charity, operating under the umbrella body of the National RSPCA. We are governed by a board of voluntary trustees who have specialisms across the board from legal to medical to media. The day to day running of the charity is carried out by our Branch Manager, who is responsible for animal welfare activities of the Branch and oversight of our shop staff and volunteers. We receive advice from the National Society of the RSPCA, and work in conjunction with other local branches, but we are primarily self-funding, and work hard to support local animals.

What issues do you typically deal with?
We deal with injured strays or abandoned animals, animals whose owners can no longer look after them due to health or financial issues. We rehome, rehabilitate and rehome these animals. We pay for all their vet care including neutering, vaccination, microchipping, dentals, pain relief, operations. We also work with the local community to support pet owners who suddenly find themselves facing a large vet bill they cannot pay. We encourage responsible pet ownership so a lot of consideration goes into these cases, but this helps us ensure our limited funds go towards helping those animals most in need. We also support the local Inspectorate network by taking in animals who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and help to fund their treatment. We work with the local Croydon Foodbank to provide free pet food to families who are struggling to afford the basics for their pets.

What is the main issue in the Croydon area?
We cover several areas where people live in work poverty – people who have jobs and do their best but still struggle to cover certain costs for their pets. As they are working, they often don’t qualify for other benefit schemes where they could receive financial help in order to afford vert treatment. We have a new welfare scheme where we take every request into consideration and look at the people and animals behind the facts and figures. We can offer advice from our top vets, find cheaper veterinary prices than they have been faced with, and provide shelter if they need to give up the animal. Even if we can’t help them directly, we endeavour to direct them to other funds which could. Another problem in the area is cats not getting neutered and stray cats. Neutering your cat is a simple procedure and has health benefits for them. It also prevents your boy can from spraying, fighting, and wandering off in search of females. If you need help or advice of neutering, please get in touch. Cats can be neutered from as young as 4 months, it’s important to get the procedure done early to prevent your cat having unwanted kittens while she’s just a kitten herself.

How does the adopting/re-homing process work?
When an animal comes into our care, they are checked over by a vet as soon as possible. Once they have had any necessary treatment, and have been vaccinated, neutered and microchipped, we advertise them on our website and social media for re-homing. We are careful to find out as much about their personality as possible so we can find the best home to suit them. We take into account if the animal is comfortable with children, if it’s a nervous animal, if there enough room for them to have space of their own in the house while they settle in? Potential adopters will see our available animals on the website and social channels, they complete an application form and we look for a perfect match based on their current lifestyle, and what our animals need and deserve. When we think someone looks suitable, we carry out a home visit. These have all been done virtually over the last year but we look to see where the animal would eat and sleep and go to the toilet, and very importantly for most cats and dogs, what is the outdoor space like. If the home visit is approved, the potential adopters are invited to meet the cat at our cattery, unfortunately this has also all been virtual, but our cattery manager is great at showing off our cats on a FaceTime call! If everyone is happy once they’ve ‘met’, then the adopters can take them home. We have a £70 adoption fee for cats which helps to pay for all the medical treatment they’ve had while with us.

Do you take on local volunteers and if so, what roles can they help with?
Yes! We are always looking for more volunteers. Unfortunately we have been limited lately as to what roles they can play, but in normal times volunteers can work in our charity shops, they can join our fundraising team and help organise and attend events. We have volunteers who carry out home visits for us, we have a volunteer helping to run our eBay shop. Another big part of our volunteering network is covered by our foster carers. Fostering an animals is such a positive experience for the foster family but also helps us so much as a charity, and benefits the animal. The animal gets one on one time around the clock, and gets used to living in a home environment again, which for a stary cat, can be key to a successful rehoming. It also means we save money on boarding fees at the cattery and enables us to free up funds for more vulnerable animals.

How can people donate money?
We have a Just Giving page and people can also donate via:
Paypal to enquires@rspcacroydon.org.uk or
Bank transfer/direct debit set up to Barclays:  RSPCA Croydon, Crystal Palace & District Branch, ACC: 03270521, SC: 20-20-65 ref# donation

We also have three wonderful charity shops in Addiscombe (@RSPCAAddiscombeShop), Caterham and Crystal Palace. They are always happy to accept donations (clothing, shoes, bric-a-brac, jewellery, toys, books etc) which can be sold in our shops. But be warned, they are absolute treasure troves, you will not be able to resist spending once you go in!

What have been the biggest challenges for the charity during the pandemic?
We relied heavily on income from the shops so having them closed for a large part of 2020 meant the income more than halved. This is a huge blow for us. But we have worked hard to develop new income streams and have now started selling online, and placed more emphasis on fundraising.

How has the pandemic affected pets/animals?
The main RSPCA website has a huge amount of information about the impact of the pandemic on pets including this Q&A about the effect on behaviour. But talking about Croydon more specifically, the Borough has it’s own PDSA (a subsidised veterinary group) which many people use for their pet care. However, due to the strain the pandemic has put them under, we have seen a lot of pet owners coming to us here at RSPCA Croydon to ask for help. Often, their pet’s issue doesn’t fall under the emergency category, but they need to be seen and the owner cannot afford a private vet. A lot of people have been affected by the pandemic financially so where they were previously in a stable position to look after their pets, they suddenly find themselves needing help with vet bills. Occasionally, they have had to make the difficult decision to hand them over to us so we can find them a new home.

Last year saw increased demand from people wanting to buy dogs. What advice would you give to anyone considering this?
Again, the RSPCA website has some great information about this. Overall, our main advice is to do your research! Make sure you get the right breed for you, think about how long you’re out of the house for, how much exercise you can give it, how much space you have! The RSPCA has lots of lovely rescue dogs looking for a home, but if you do purchase from a breeder, make sure they’re responsible. You should be able to visit several times, see the puppy with mum and siblings, and they should show your documentation for vaccinations etc. And perhaps most importantly – money. Can you afford to care for a dog for it’s whole life? You should expect a dog to cost you (depending on their size) between £4,500 – £13,000 at a minimum. You could spend as much as £30,000 over their life time. Can you afford this?

As we (hopefully!) enter the final stages of lockdown, have you any fun tips for keeping pets entertained at home?
The RSPCA team have done a great job putting together these 8 DIY loo roll games designed to keep a variety of pets entertained at home! Check them out here.

For more information about RSPCA Croydon, CLICK HERE.

!!!COMPETITION!!!

To help raise more awareness about their work, we have partnered with RSPCA Croydon to run a one-month photography competition so that dogs (and their owners!) can win a dinner (for 2 humans and 1 dog) at Mr Fox Croydon (once it has re-opened its doors to the public).

To learn more about this #CroydonWalkies competition, CLICK HERE

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