Animal hospital faces closure with fear of job losses

By Sian Bayley Local Democracy Reporter

An animal hospital could close in September due to money problems, prompting fears hundreds of pets will have to be put down or left as strays.

On Friday of last week, staff and local MP Fleur Anderson held a protest outside the Putney RSPCA hospital, which has been running for more than 100 years.

One staff member, who didn’t wish to be named, said that the planned closure would be “devastating” for the 43 staff who could lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic, as well as local families who rely on their services.

She said: “A lot of them won’t be able to afford to go to a private vet and we just don’t know what’s going to happen . If your dog is sick and you can’t afford 50 quid to see a private vet then a lot of people just won’t have any options.

“You know I think the Inspectorate will probably have to still collect those animals but they might just end up being euthanised, which is really sad. We’re talking about hundreds, potentially thousands of animals.

protesting the closure of Putney Animal Hospital Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, protesting the closure of Putney Animal Hospital. Credit: Grahame Larter
RSPCA staff and union members outside Putney Animal Hospital Credit: Grahame Larter

“A lot of the other problems will get worse, so if we are not doing the big neutering scheme, without that there are going to be more stray cats, more kittens and puppies abandoned, and a lot of the medical conditions that happen if you don’t get animals neutered. It’s really sad to think about.”

The hospital in Clarendon Drive saw more than 7,000 animals last year.

As well as treating pets, it is also known for its specialist wildlife care, including birds, foxes and badgers, which staff members fear will not be replaced elsewhere.

The  veterinary surgeon said: “The wildlife side of things is really worrying because we have another RSPCA hospital in London in North London, but they don’t really do anything for wildlife because you need specialised facilities really and you need staff who know how to treat those animals, so they won’t be able to takeover that role.”

Labour MP for Putney, Fleur Anderson said: “People come here from the far end of East London because they have nowhere else to go. Without it they will be facing huge bills.”

So far more than 13,000 people have signed an online petition to stop the closure of the animal centres.

The decision on the future of the hospital is expected to be made on August 6.

A spokesman for the RSPCA stressed that the animal hospital closures “are proposals at the moment and no decision has been made”.

He said: “We are looking at a number of counter proposals and suggestions that have been submitted and we are considering them.

“The RSPCA is a large organisation which offers a wide range of animal welfare services, which are very costly to run – Putney Hospital alone costs £1.5million a year. Even before Covid, the cost of running these services was outstripping our income and continuing to run these services in their current form in the long term is not sustainable – although we had worked hard to reduce our deficit before the pandemic, we are now facing a £25million deficit this year and this is predicted to rise without urgent action.

“We know that this is an incredibly difficult and uncertain time for staff and the last thing we want to do is to be making these cuts at this time but these changes are essential and urgent if we are to survive as an effective and sustainable animal welfare organisation.

“Our services are unbalanced between the north and south and we currently have two animal hospitals operating in central London. Therefore it is proposed to close Putney Hospital and the linked Southall cattery and clinic and focus our London veterinary service at Harmsworth, which is an area of higher need.

“We currently only have hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester and our inspectorate in other areas around the country already work with local vets to provide the care the animals we rescue need.

“Our inspectors in the South will be able to take animals to local vets as well as our other London hospital and clinic. We are actively exploring whether any other welfare organisations can take over some of these sites and continue to provide services.

“Over half of the area covered by Putney Hospital is also covered by other charities providing similar services to the public and we are also having conversations with other charities and veterinary providers during this consultation to try and find a solution to ensure pet owners can get the help they need.”

To sign the petition click here 




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