ANALYSIS: The RSPCA, UK’s most prominent animal welfare organisation, is to close some of its top hospitals to raise £18 million because they are running at an annual deficit (the four: Putney Hospital, Southall Cattery and Clinic, Lockwood Equine Centre and South Godstone Animal Centre). In 2018 the charity had a deficit of £6.9 million compared with a surplus of 24.8 million the year before. It faced a £12m deficit before Covid-19 according to their accounts. This is not about the coronavirus pandemic having a massive impact upon this charity (as has happened with some other charities). It is about, in my view, poor management. There has been a long history of poor management at the RSPCA which I believe (and this is not mentioned in the media) has had a negative impact on donations to the charity together with waste.
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They are closing two facilities which were bequeathed to the RSPCA fairly recently. This will be highly upsetting to the relatives of the deceased person who bequeathed a horse rehabilitation centre called Lockwood. And the RSPCA’s hospital in Putney is to close. A care assistant at Putney who was made redundant said that he had been asked to help clear the building and empty equipment into a tip. He finds the whole thing unbearable because he had thought that his job was for life. It is a vocation for him and he works for the animals. He can’t believe that it is happening.
The RSPCA is closing the four hospitals and dismissing hundreds of staff to plug a £47 million funding gap. About 90 staff in the RSPCA’s inspectorate division have also been let go. Putney Animal Hospital cares for 20% of all RSPCA’s frontline work. It treats 7,500 animals every year. There is desperation because staff and volunteers are very fearful that even this single closure will leave many injured and abused animals with nowhere to go. Comment: I often walk past the Putney hospital. It is in a prime London residential area which is why it is being sold as the land is worth a fortune. It is quite a large plot. This is a very famous hospital. Rolf Harris presented TV shows from the hospital.
Putney Animal Hospital provided a discount service to people who couldn’t afford the cost of veterinary care. The cattery at Southall is also closing and it is always chock-a-block according to one of the staff members. Laura Stokes, a former volunteer at Southall said that the decision to close the facility could not have been made in the interest of the animals. She said the staff are heartbroken.
There is clearly turmoil at the top at the RSPCA. Four executives in the leadership team have walked in recent weeks. The assistant chief executive, the group financial controller, the director of finance and the head of people and culture have all departed. They say that their departure is unrelated to the shakeup.
The restructuring is part of a 10 year strategy it is said and will be completed by the end of September. Management wants to modernise the RSPCA’s culture and they were adopting the mantra “Animal lives matter”. They ditched it in August in favour of “All animals deserve a good life”.
You have to read between the lines. The first mantra clearly clashed with what they are doing in their restructuring programme. The second mantra is far more elastic as to how you interpret it. They needed that flexibility.
The patron of the RSPCA is the Queen and I bet she is upset too. Management say that the coronavirus exacerbated a “challenging financial situation”. I reiterate, in my opinion the financial difficulties have been brought about by poor management decision-making. They are the authors of their own problems and as usual the animals will suffer as a consequence.