Today marks the 3rd birthday of our animal centre! The centre opened in July 2019 it has seen over 2,000 small animals pass through its doors. We asked our hard working all-female centre staff how they found life in an animal centre and which animal success stories they treasure.
How do you think our work has changed/improved since the rehoming centre opened?
Catherine (Rehoming Supervisor):
Our work has changed hugely, and for the better, since opening the centre and again during lockdown. There is a whole lot less driving round to do now that all are animals are under one roof rather than in private boarding facilities. With all our animals being closely monitored and receiving the highest level of care by all the staff within the centre.
Angela (Deputy Manager):
I think we are much more focused on the quality of the animals’ experience whilst they are with us now and we are comfortable with the day to day basic care routine. Taking steps to help new cats settle in more quickly, dig boxes for rabbits and other enrichment activities must make life so much nicer for our residents. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a giant rabbit or a tiny mouse, we try as hard as we can within our resources to make the experience much more than food and a bed.
What was the biggest challenge in setting up the centre/getting up and running?
The cleaning! I think we underestimated how many staff hours are needed to provide the high quality environment we strive for. The employment of more ACA [Animal Care Assistants] staff was very welcome!
Has there been a particular highlight for you from the last three years? A certain centre achievement/event?
Clare (Animal Care Assistant):
Not a highlight but definitely an achievement, being able to still carry on working during COVID and supporting all the animals that needed the help and support, all the while doing this with minimal staff and volunteers on site. And can’t forget being declared as a centre of excellence following a license inspection.
How volunteers really supported us during lockdown, carrying on coming in and doing extra in many cases.
Britt (Animal Care Assistant):
The amount of animals we have taken in and some being case animals which we have rehabilitated and they have been rehomed.
What was our biggest adoption success story, in your eyes?
Susie (Branch Manager):
Since opening our doors, around 2000 animals have come into our care. Whilst there have been many ‘traditional’ success stories, we also have to deal with considerable sadness. It can sometimes feel like we have failed when we lose an animal, but in reality we are often fighting against all odds to overturn irreparable damage. At times like these a voice of reason will always pop up to offer consoling words that amount to the same: we did succeed because they came to a place of safety where they received comfort, compassion and love, often for the first time in their lives. So my biggest adoption success story has to be the teams’ ‘adoption’ of such a deep understanding of what we do 365 days of the year.
For me it’s any of the foster cats and kittens I have brought home from the centre. Being there 7 days a week we can really quickly spot when the centre isn’t the best place and do something about it. Before we had our own centre it took a lot longer to spot issues sometimes. Korky the cat was one of my favourite centre residents. He arrived as a smelly, hissy Tom cat that lunged out of his bed as soon as anyone came in his pen. 2 weeks of consistent care (and neutering) and he began to turn around. I will always remember walking past his pen one day and seeing him trying to attract my attention. I offered him my curled up hand and he nuzzled it. After that we never looked back! He loved to play football and fetch with his special Man City miniature football which he took with him to his new home.
Our little Charlie, who came into our care in June 2020 due to his previous owners failing to provide him with necessary treatment for his ear, which had a large lesion and a lump, which he needed surgery for. The moment I met Charlie even though he had already been through so much, he just craved love and attention the entire time. I remember going into his pen when he arrived, and he just came over put his two front paws on my shoulder and nuzzled his head into my neck, almost like giving me a hug. Charlie was also very funny when cleaning out his pen, as he would always jump on to your shoulders and stay there just enjoying the ride.
‘Craggy Island’ was another successful story, we took on 27 rabbits from a case of 83 rabbits that were seized from a property. The rabbits were finally signed over to us a year later, after going through the court system, and are now all being rehomed.
What is your favourite thing about the centre? (Serious or silly!)
Cat iso [isolation unit where very young or sick cats stay] when it’s really hot everywhere else. Guinea pig squeaking chorus when the fridge opens.
My favourite thing is working within such a great team who all share the same passion for the animals. Seeing some of the animals that come in scared and nervous really coming around with patience and trusting us is so rewarding.
My favourite thing about the centre is having a set of keys to our very own centre; it’s been a long time coming. And working with such a great bunch of people.
Hearing the rabbits at teatime playing with their puzzle feeders or seeing animals who have had shattered lives fall into deep slumber in a big pile of bedding, like they’ve never truly relaxed before. Knowing animals feel safe to perform such behaviours make it all the hard work worthwhile.
Lucy joined us as a Rehoming Supervisor in March this year…
You’ve worked in animal welfare/rehoming previously, what differences have you found joining the branch?
Having worked in a number of animal rescue settings previously, it is clear to see the outstanding commitment RSPCA M&S have to remaining abreast of the gold standard of animal care. Huge emphasis is placed on staff training, and keeping up with the latest research and veterinary advice. We are continually tweaking our practices to best benefit our animals, and while we know that we provide excellent care, we are also keen to always be better. I think the centre’s dedication to this really sets it apart.
What do you think we do well here?
The centre has a large number of cats, rabbits, and smalls in its care at any one time, and every day is very busy. Despite this, the hugely dedicated team of staff and volunteers are fantastic at getting to know (and fall in love with!) the animals individually. They are quick to spot any potential issues based off even tiny changes in behaviour, then communicate this and implement changes accordingly. Each animal receives care tailored to its unique needs. We keep track of everybody’s preferences for different foods, toys, size of box to doze in etc.
The biscuit and tea selection in the staff and volunteer kitchen is also excellent.