Staff, residents and MP fight to keep RSPCA facility in Putney open
It has been a difficult month for the staff at Putney Animal Hospital. The 43
staff who work there found out, in a shock conference call on 16th June, that their
beloved hospital had been ear-marked for closure at the end of September.
There is a community protest planned at the hospital at 1pm on 31st July, with Fleur and local councilors due to attend. Animal hospital staff will be available to discuss the work they and provide advice about veterinary care. You can also find the campaign on Twitter - @saveouranimalc1 - where you can sign the petition and donate to their campaign fund.
The Putney Animal Hospital has been a bedrock of the community for more than a hundred years, treating animals from all over London and the South. Last year alone 7,000 animals were seen there, brought in by the RSPCA inspectorate, members of the public and their devoted clients.
The building was refurbished just a couple of years ago, and contains two operating theatres and specialized wards for cats, dogs and wildlife - as well as a maternity unit and isolation ward. Staff work 24 hours a day to treat their patients, and it’s often a real challenge getting through the procedures list, which can include anything from routine neutering to life-saving surgery.
The staff come across as a tight-knit and dedicated group of colleagues, motivated by their love of animals more than anything else. They have been left devastated by the decision to close the hospital, which was announced along with 300 other RSCA redundancies, mostly affecting frontline staff.
Staff are skeptical of the reasons for the closure, which the RSPCA executive say is a result of a drop in funding following the pandemic. In June John Kerslake, RSPCA Director of Field Operations, said: “These proposals will be upsetting and the decision has not been made lightly, but we must bring our spending in line with our income if we are to continue to help animals most in need. The RSPCA is facing a £25 million deficit this year, which has been made much worse by the coronavirus pandemic, rising to a potential £47m black hole over the next three years if action is not taken now.”
"I have always been so
proud to work for an animal charity", one nurse commented. "‘Every day me and
my colleagues work tirelessly to improve animal welfare. I am devastated that
the charity I know and love is being slowly reduced to nothing more than a
While the pandemic has undoubtedly hit charities hard, the redundancies come following a series of what staff describe as "draconian measures" taken by the RSPCA executive. Earlier this year employees were forced to sign new contracts taking away many of their benefits. Another member of the staff told this website that: "Most staff did so with a heavy heart, worried about the decisions made by head office, but reluctant to damage the reputation of the charity by speaking out. For years there has been concern about the managerial culture of the RSPCA, but most staff have stayed because of their commitment to helping animals. Now they are facing redundancy in the middle of a pandemic."
"‘Redundancy on a personal level is going to be hard", continued the nurse, "but the thought of
centres closing forever are completely devastating and I can’t bear to think of the impact on animal welfare."
Another staff member shared this concern. "I just don’t know who will be able to take up the slack. We are leaving animals in a huge area of the South of England without a lifeline, and I’m sick with worry at the effect it will have on animal welfare, especially at a time when animals, and humans, need us the most."
There are just days left to reverse the proposals, and the local community has launched an impressive campaign, with over 10,000 people signing a petition against the closure. Putney MP Fleur Anderson has personally intervened, appealing directly to CEO Chris Sherwood to reconsider. "Please keep Putney Animal Hospital open", she urged him. "It is the only wildlife hospital in London."
The decision will be announced on 6th August, with the planned closure due at the end of September. Until then, staff will continue to help animals day and night. "We don’t have a choice – I love this centre, and can’t bear to see it close, but I still come to work to rescue animals. And that won’t change."
July 28, 2020