There are all sorts of animal cruelty stories in the media but we only see the half of it. The RSPCA investigated over 150,000 cases last year, but what about the rest of the charities?
I went down to Millstream Animal Shelter, a charity taking in mainly cats, and occasional ferrets and dogs. All of the animals taken in by them are neutered, and for those who cannot find a home they provide one within their shelter. They also offer advice and support to owners to enable them to keep their pets.
The Shelter is dedicated to improving the lives of animals in the local area but being financially independent means it is entirely reliant upon local support to help fund its work.
To find out what their work consists of I interviewed Michaela, a volunteer and trustee, about the reality of animal cruelty.
I started off by asking her what her role is at the animal shelter.
“There are a lot of responsibilities here which include manning the office, organising the rehoming and taking in of animals, making the decision of what we take in and generally running the place.”
Learning her motive behind volunteering at Millstream was important as it gave me a sense of the type of person she is.
” I’ve got so many reasons for being a volunteer. I think the main reasons are that I was just brought up with it, you know being an animal lover. I’m definitely a crazy cat lady so I love being around all of the cats, and helping out satisfies me. Taking the animals in and getting them rehomed gives me a sense of accomplishment because it means I’ve just improved the quality of life of that one animal, even if it is just one. I also think people get involved strangely because they come from an animal, and when they learn about a place from things like the paper or internet they feel like they need to get involved because they need to help put a stop to it.”
When it comes to helping animals that have suffered animal cruelty, people always forget about what happens once that animal has been taken out of a bad place. I asked what steps they have to take at the animal shelter to help improve the life of an animal they have taken in.
” The first step we have to take is to make sure they are checked up on at the vets to make sure that they are healthy, and if they’re not to make them better. We then get all of the animals neutered to ensure there will be less problems in the future, if any, and aim to get the animals rehomed which we’re really careful about when it comes to finding a new owner. If we can’t find a new home or think that an animal is unsuitable we make the shelter their home which means we look after them.”
One of the main reasons I took to visiting and asking questions at a shelter was because they see the harsh reality of animal abuse. To really find out what some animals go through I asked what the worse case Machaela has ever seen and her reply was heartbreaking.
“There’s so many cases I can’t just say one. There was a cat named Suki who was strung up by her hind legs to a tree and shot by a pellet gun. One of her legs was broken and it was only when she got x rayed that we discovered the pellets. One was sitting next to her spine.”
“There are lots of dumpings of cats outside here and catteries. Once a lady came in from Huddersfield who owned a cattery, and somebody had dumped a plastic box outside with holes in the top full of kittens. It was when there was torrential rain and there were six of them that were left there overnight. When the lady found them the following day, because it had rained so much, it had rained inside the box and there were two of the kittens left because the others had drowned. The lady who’d found them was so distraught that she brought them here and it was touch and go as to whether they would make it so we got them to the vet and they were freezing cold so we had to warm them up. They were only about 5 weeks old but fortunately they survived.”
“Sometimes people don’t mean to be cruel it’s just lack of thought. People put kittens in wheelie bins thinking that people will hear them and find them and usually if they’re lucky they’re found by the bin men. In fact a bin man did bring a kitten in. He was emptying the wheelie bins and he heard something crying so he opened the bin and there was a kitten there. They were just about to empty the bin into the crusher so that was like a minute from death.”
“People that float from properties and things like that sometimes tend to leave their cats behind. We had three cats that were shut in a property for three weeks, and we think the people who lived there must have thought that the landlord would be going to check the house or something once they’d gone but he had a lot of properties, so it was 3 weeks before he went there and one had died. One of them we didn’t find until a week after because it was hiding behind the cupboards and ended up having to drink the condensation off the windows, so that cat was there for four weeks.”
“Harriet, another cat got brought in and we had to arrange a vet appointment straight away because she was starved and tried to fill herself up which lead to her overeating and being sick because her stomach was so small. She was on a drip for four days and can’t be neutered for a while because she’s so small (three and a half kilos). She’s gaining weight though because when we brought her in she was one and a half kilos which is the size of a 14 week old kitten and she’s an adult. She looked like a skeleton. She’s recovering and she’s a friendly cat, and people like the sob stories so we expect her to get rehomed quickly when she’s better.”
“When people first meet you they come up to you and say they’d love your job but they don’t see the reality of this job at all. You have to bite your tongue a lot because saying what you really think could start something.”
After hearing such realities I went on to ask whether she thinks the law surrounding animal cruelty should be taken more seriously and she was very quick to answer yes. I was eager to find out what and why.
“Prison sentences should be longer because no matter what the very few are sentenced with they’re always let out earlier. You never hear of people being put away either and it makes you think if a person can be as cruel to people as they are to animals what are their intentions in life? There’s a collaboration between the NSPCC and RSPCA, so if the RSPCA go into a property because there’s trouble with animals and they see young children there they will let the NSPCC know, because if they’re cruel to the animals then certainly the children will be suffering as well. It makes you think that if the law for animal cruelty was taken more seriously, would it help with child abuse and so on?”
One of the questions I will always ask when it comes to animal cruelty is why do people do it? Michaela had some good answers for me.
” I think one of the main reasons is ignorance. Lots of people just view animals as commodities and we have people phone up here and say ‘what have you got in stock?’ or ‘what price do they go at?’ I mean it just tells you what type of pet owner they’re going to be. You can decide within a second of picking that phone up whether you’re going to rehome to someone because of the way they ask.”
“Even on Facebook people can put a couple of words and sometimes I’ll even just not reply to them, you know like when they call them it and the first thing they want to know is how much they are.”
“This time of year now is the worst time because, well I’m saying that but to be honest with you the six week holidays have been a bad time this year because it seems that these people with kids have got kittens in the six week holidays and then when the six weeks are up they’re four months old and on the streets because they were basically just toys for the kids while they’re at home for the summer.”
“Now they phone and ask ‘how close to christmas do you home kittens?’ Well that straight away is alarm bells to me, I mean why? Why would you want a kitten at Christmas? Even in a reasonable home there’s so much going on. Theres visitors, large families, people might be standing at open doors so the cat could get out, plus it’s overwhelming for the animal because there’s so much noise.”
“You get all these notices that the RSPCA put out ‘a dog is for life not just for christmas’ and Cats Protection League with a ‘cat is for life’ and people ignore it.”
My final question was a hard one because there is no real way to stop animal cruelty altogether but I asked what she thinks would help stop it.
“When it’s ignorance there’s education, but it’s like how do you go out and actually educate people. I think getting animals neutered is a good way to stop things like hoarding and animals getting sick but some people think that they don’t need to be neutered. Certain communities don’t even realise that animals can be neutered. So there’s education and neutering, but then obviously you’ve got people that are just damn right cruel.”
After speaking to Michaela and other volunteers at Millstream Animal Shelter I think it’s safe to say that I learnt about the even harsher reality than I already thought of animal cruelty. My thoughts after visiting and talking about the animals was that I always hear about the abuse but didn’t know the extent of it.
Millstream Animal Shelter are doing their best to get animals away from animal cruelty and to give them a new life, but this can only be done with the help from the public. If you’d like to help improve the lives of these animals donate at their JustGiving page, or buy something for them off their Amazon wishlist.