The Nottingham veterinary school is to establish a database of animals being kept at rescue centres and shelters throughout the UK.
Dr Jenny Stavisky of the school’s Centre for Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine is to spend three years on a project which will try to determine how many animals are kept in all the various shelters, how many are euthanased and how many are re-homed, and also look at what can be done to stop the rise in the numbers of both dogs and cats being abandoned or rescued.
In the longer term, Dr Stavisky and her team hope to establish a shelter surveillance programme to monitor diseases in animals in shelters.
The announcement of this project coincided with a report from the RSPCA that its animal shelters in England and Wales have been inundated with cats and kittens in need of new homes, with many now full.
Throughout 2009, 7,686 cats were taken into RSPCA care; between January and July 2010, 4,135 cats were taken into the 16 regional centres which operate as part of the national RSPCA (branches run as independent charities and their figures are not yet available).
Then came a Panorama programme broadcast on BBC1 on 10th August in which a reporter visited Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and discovered “a shocking rise” in the number of aggressive dogs taken in, particularly Staffordshire bull terriers, and the need for increasing numbers to be euthanased.
The home said that about a third of the dogs it takes in have to be put to sleep, although most of them are healthy animals, because they are deemed to be unsuitable for rehoming. Battersea is among a number of centres which say the problem is on the rise and is said to be, in part, a reflection of a growing trend for aggressive-looking “status” dogs.
One of those who took part in this programme was Dr Paul Manning, principal of the Astonlee Veterinary Hospital in Newport Pagnell.
He said it helped to show the profession in a much better light [than the Panorama programme It shouldn’t happen at a vet’s broadcast two weeks earlier], facing the real issues in animal welfare today honestly, unflinchingly, duty bound and with compassion.
“My feeling is that the solution is compulsory microchipping linked to benefits: e.g. people who choose to have a dog and then abandon it choose to give up their rights to their benefit cheques,” he said, and he called on the profession to be more proactive and to play a more effective leadership role.