Animal Advocacy is Closing

We regret to inform everyone that we are closing our doors and ceasing our voluntary work as of now. This will be my final article for animal welfare. And in it, I’ll explain why I’m closing rather than setting up as a charity; why animal welfare needs people like me; and other bits and bobs.

I’ve written so much, I’m including a Table of Contents below, so you can skip to whatever interests you… but I should warn you, it’s a bit of a brain dump!

 

The Charity Regulators

My decision to stop volunteering comes in the wake of communications from the Charity Regulators requesting that I either register as a charity or cease volunteering. This is because I am promoting a charitable purpose, and am not registered with the Register of Charities. Sections 41 and 46 of the Charities Act 2009 set out the relevant offences. They added:

“Please be aware that an offence under the 2009 Act carries with it maximum penalties on indictment of a fine not exceeding €300,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

Needless to say, this was a bit distressing.

It never occurred to me that the small-scale voluntary work I do would come under their remit. I have always highlighted that I am not a charity, and I don’t solicit donations beyond adoption fees (which don’t begin to cover the expense of the voluntary work I do, with vet owings permanently hovering around €800). In fact, I have always encouraged people to donate only to charities and even then, only to charities they’ve visited and whose policies and practices they agree with. 

In fact, when I consulted my lawyer, he too thought my work was too small scale for the Regulators to be concerned with. 

But it turns out it’s not.

Before I go any further I have to say I can see where the Charity Regulators are coming from and have no quarrel with them – and neither should you! It must be next to impossible to police small-scale volunteers like myself. There are many  who, unlike myself, prey on people’s good will. And the regulations are set up to stop them. Unfortunately they’re going to stop me too.

I also have to say, the Regulator I spoke to was incredibly helpful and sympathetic, most distressed I would rather shut down than set up a charity and actively encourage me to do the latter.

 

What Will Happen?

Animal Welfare Volunteering

Realistically, I will still foster & rehome to an extent. Specifically, I think everyone should help any cat that turns up on their doorstep – so those cats are in luck. And you’d be surprised how many appear on my road and in my back garden. 

However, if you come across a cat in distress, you will have to help them yourself – I will not be there for you or them.  And you should help them, by the way.

Kingdom Cat & Dog Rescue (KCADR) have incredibly kindly agreed to have me foster under their charitable umbrella. I will still pay for the vet bills, as they have little enough money as it is. But the bill will be in KCADR’s name, and the donations will be paid to the charity. Any donations given regarding the cats I take in, will go towards their KCADR vet bills (as always), either directly, or through KCADR.

But fostering is all I will do. And, of course, caring for the (currently ten) permanent resident cats in my care.

I will no longer do any TNR. I might do TNR workshops again in the future, but not any time soon. I won’t help stray animals, liaise with the dog warden, post on social media. I won’t maintain the TNR webpages, or add to them. I won’t be doing information provision or awareness raising. No animal transportation, no finding and encouraging volunteers. No posters, flyers, or any kind of graphics. No more articles, enews, publicity, webdesign, activism. No more forms or paperwork. I’ll stop networking (tho I’ll stay in touch with all my animal welfare buddies!) – no more homechecks for other orgs, no more sharing of posts, no more extra fostering or TNR for other animal welfare groups. No more helping the public with their animal welfare queries; no pointing them in the right direction;  no need to deal with the ones who are cruel, neglectful and/or ignorant. I won’t have to deal with rude nor hateful people. I won’t have to watch animals die because I got there too late. Or agonise while their recovery is uncertain. No more picking up dead dogs, run over because their neglectful guardians consistently let them stray.

No more compassion fatigue.

I’ll stop doing Protect Whiddy Island Hares FB page – hopefully someone else will take it over – even more hopefully, it won’t be needed soon and they’ll stop cruel coursing.

However, I will continue to volunteer for Seal Rescue Ireland (SRI).

 

TNR Manual

Drogheda Animal Rescue (DAR) have agreed to take on the TNR Manual and its webpages. Over the coming month, I’ll be updating the pages and helping them transfer them to a new domain with a new design. They are a fabulous rescue and TNR organisation, and I’m grateful to them for carrying the Manual on.

 

Webpage & Social Media

While DAR will take over the TNR Manual, the rest of the webpages will go. Animal Advocacy’s domain will remain for just under a year and redirect people to the new pages, so you don’t lose them!

The Twitter account will be deleted – I never really used it anyway. The Facebook page … i haven’t decided yet – it has so much history for me I don’t want to lose it. Initially, I’ll change it so that no-one can post or contact me through it and include this article at the top, so visitors can be made aware of what’s going on. In the long-term, I may simply make it private, so no-one can see it but me. 

The info@animaladvocacy.ie email will be shut down by the end of September. I worry that adopters of my felines may not be able to contact me. I love getting updates and don’t want to lose touch. I will have to think about what to do about that. In the meantime, you can contact me through my personal FB page.

 

Animal Advocacy will be fully closed by the end of September 2020.

 

Why Not Set Up a Charity?

Several reasons including: working with people; compassion fatigue; the financial & time commitments.

 

Previous Experience

I’ve been an active committee member in several charitable organisations, both in the UK and Ireland. And I’ve initiated two charitable organisations in West Cork. 

Firstly, back in 2006, I was inspired by a book, Hard Rain by Mark Edwards. I found a fantastic team of people, similarly inspired, and we formed SEE Ltd. SEE became Sustain West Cork, no longer in existence, set up to inform, enable and inspire sustainable lifestyle choices through awareness raising events and information provision.

Next, in 2009, this time inspired by my reading and experience of Trap Neuter Return, I suggested to Jennifer Carroll we start a local TNR group. We got more people on board and RAWR (Rural Animal Resources) was born.

In all instances the work involved was enormous – in the case of RAWR, full time 7 days a week for nearly two years. In some, there were distressing and unnecessary personality clashes; in one I was bullied to the extent I cried myself to sleep before meetings. 

Since 2011, I’ve been volunteering as an individual – networking with other organisations, but making my own decisions and commitments, without the stresses and compromises of running a charity. 

Because of my past experience, I have no interest in setting up a charity again.

 

Time & Stress Commitment

Most animal welfare charities in Ireland, aside from the larger ones with funding to pay for staff, are managed by a very few people – often two or three. They may have several other volunteers fostering, fundraising, etc, but most of the work falls on the shoulders of the directors. And the work is substantial. There’s the webpages and social media, fundraising, accounts, managing volunteers, graphic design (forms, information sheets and publicity), dealing with the public, ensuring animals are health checked, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, rehoming, etc etc etc. 

I do most of this with Animal Advocacy but, because it’s just me, I can take breaks when it gets too much for me – and compassion fatigue and burnout have been heavy burdens for me since 2005. For a functioning charity long breaks just aren’t possible – there’s always something needing doing. 

 

Financial Commitment

A charity has financial & time commitments before you even start doing charitable work. There’s the time and costs involved in setting up the charity in the first place. And you need around €2-3K on hand every year to pay an auditor. 

Someday I may try and figure out exactly how much I spend every year on the animal welfare work I do. And how much comes in from adoption fees, and occasional extra donations, (I have all the paperwork, but pulling it together is an Impossible Task for me.) I decided to do a rough calculation here – and am quite horrified at what I spend (my income is from minimum wage, part time work).

I take in around 25 foster cats annually. 

  • Some just cost me the vaccination, health check, microchip and neuter. Most are not well when they come in and cost significantly more. If I average that to around €150 per cat, we’re talking €3750 per annum. 
  • If I get a full donation fee for all 25 fosterees, at €60, that would total €1500.
  • I get extra donations from adopters sometimes. Probably around €300 per annum.
  • My resident cats are all rescues who have stayed with me because, for reasons of age, health and/or temperament, a home can’t be found for them. They’re all costly vet-wise – a conservative estimate would be around €1350 a year.
  • Finally, cats needing dentals at €500 a pop have been a recent thing. Let’s say 2 a year – another €1000.
  • RAWR pay for the neutering when I TNR. So that’s blessedly €0.
  • There’s all the food, litter, toys, diesel – not even going to think about that. Though I get food donations from RAWR, which take the edge off.
  • I also don’t want to think about how much I’ve spent on equipment over the years – cages, carriers, traps, specialised equipment, etc.
  • Oh, and there’s the webpages and domain name – around €150 annually.
  • There’s probably more.

So, I’ve conservatively estimated outgoings of €6250, with income of €1800. Deficit of €4300 out my pocket annually.

And that’s just me, one person. As soon as full on charity work starts, this is a fraction of the outgoings to be expected. Fundraising becomes as important as the charity work – and some charities have more volunteers involved in charity shops than they do on the ground with the animals. 

 

Government funding is abysmal – animal welfare charities get €3 million, a miniscule fraction of the income given to racing industry (€64 million) – the latter being responsible for much of the problems in animal welfare that the charities respond to.

And if you look at the division of the €3 million to animal welfare charities (details here):

  • 5 organisations get half the total, 1.5 million (100-485K), between them: DSPCA, ISPCA, Irish Blue Cross, Donkey Sanctuary, CSPCA
  • 12 organisations get more than one third of what’s left, 600K (30-75K each): mostly SPCAs, plus a couple of horse orgs, LAW, PAWS, Ash and Cork DAWG
  • 35 orgs get between 12 and 27K, again totalling just over a third of what’s left from the first 5 – 634K
  • The last 53 organisations get 10K or less each, some as little as 1,000. Together these orgs get less than a third of the total left after the top 5 have had their share – 258K.

Guess which end of that scale I’d be. 

It’s also apparent that some charities get nothing. This could be their own choice – if they’re only going to get €1000, it’s hardly worth the time, effort and conditions to apply.

West Cork rescues and TNR groups in Co Cork are at the bottom end of the scale:

  • Cork Cat Action Trust, Blackrock, Co Cork €15,000
  • West Cork Animal Welfare Group Ltd, Clonakility, Co. Cork €17,000
  • Rural Animal Welfare Resources CLG, Rockmount, Drimoleague, Co Cork €13,000
  • Community Cats Network, Glanavaud, Kilbrittain, Co Cork €9,000

AND with RAWR already fundraising in Bantry, my  hometown, I certainly don’t want to be competing with them for resources – a lose-lose situation for both of us.

If you remember my guestimate of my own, small-scale fostering costing over €6K annually, you get an idea of the enormous shortfall for these larger groups. It’s only through their fundraising efforts, and the generosity of the public, that they survive at all.

With all the charities, not just animal welfare ones, looking for funding, you wonder how any of them survive.

 

Animal Welfare in Ireland

 

The Problems

The problems are overpopulation, inadequate legislation, inadequate enforcement of legislation, inadequate provision and funding of animal welfare organisations – and, ultimately, lack of human responsibility.

 

Over 300,000 kittens are born in Ireland every year. Of those 180,000 kittens die before they are 4 months old. What kills these kittens in Ireland? Hunger, disease, exposure and people (see Kitten Mortality for more information). There are no statistics for how many felines are killed in shelters. (Estimates from ANVIL Ireland.)

If you think about what I do – I just take in the stray cats that don’t have people to help them, ie. I don’t take cats from people who want to ‘get rid of’ their companions – I just take the kittens that fall out of cars, the strays with no-one to help them.

So, in my town, that’s around 25 cats and kittens a year. According to Wikipedia, there’s around 1365 villages (including suburbs) in Ireland. So, assuming Bantry is typical, that’s 34,125 stray felines in the republic annually. Keeping in mind, this doesn’t include surrendered felines nor those who aren’t found and die or end up living ferally.

 

In 2018, in Irish pounds alone (ie. not including rescues), on average, 38 dogs were taken in every working day – that’s nearly 200 a week. 27 were strays, 10 were surrendered and 1 seized; 7 were reclaimed each day, 9 rehomed, 3 were killed, 18 transferred to rescue. The Department of Agriculture stats indicate that these figures have been decreasing since 2005, but it’s not because we are solving the problem – it is because rescue centres and dedicated individuals are getting to these dogs before they are destroyed. This is not a solution, it is a band-aid over a broken leg. (Stats from gov.ie.)

 

The ISPCA has only 9 cruelty inspectors covering 17 of the 26 counties of the republic. So it looks like 9 counties can do what they want (although some charities do cruelty cases too).

Really, to me that says it all. But add to that the funding I mentioned earlier – animal welfare charities get €3 million, a miniscule fraction of the €64 million given to the racing industry. Animal welfare is obviously not a priority here.

 

The Solutions

Solutions include TNR, Neutering, Decent Legislation and Enforcement of that Legislation, adequate funding for rescue and  TNR organisations – and organisations across the board that can cope with the problems.

Immediate solutions include Responsible Pet Ownership & Individual Responsibility – a public that acts responsibly towards the non-human animals it shares this planet with … but that’s not going to happen without legislation and its enforcement. CATch 22.

While the larger charities, mostly SPCAs, have enough funding to pay staff, most of the animal welfare orgs and individuals I work with are volunteer only. The public doesn’t seem to realise that. We’re not paid, nearly all of us have other work to support what we do. We get calls at all hours of the day. And we answer for the sake of the animals. Currently, we are one of the interim solutions.

And, while this situation continues, the general public has to step in when rescues are overwhelmed, or don’t exist in the first place. But, for the most part, they don’t know that!

 

In Conclusion

I’ve shown, there just aren’t enough rescues in Ireland to deal with the animal welfare problems, particularly in rural areas. In my part of West Cork there’s just RAWR – a TNR organisation, NOT a rescue. Which is why I have been doing my bit. 

People like me exist across the republic, rescuing a few here and there and paying out our own pockets. And others will continue to do so. 

Now I am stopping, others will have to step up to the mark. If you don’t, who will?

 

Before signing off, I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me through the decades – my friends, my animal welfare colleagues, the organisations that have supported me, my fosterees, my adopters – all of you who have given your time and care, who’ve listened when I’ve needed to be heard, and have been there for me when I needed you – you know who you are, my gratitude goes out to you.

To my adopters – I hope you’ll still keep in touch, though you won’t get me through the Animal Advocacy email any more.

To all my thousands of fosterees, cats & dogs alike, you will always have a tiny piece of my heart and soul. I’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

To the many (far too many) people who are cruel and/or neglectful of the living creatures around them – you will burn in a very special kind of hell, make no mistake. I am more thankful than I can say that I won’t have to deal with you any more.

Goodbye from Animal Advocacy. Do keep in touch.

Muriel Lumb, Bantry, Co Cork

Posted in Animal Welfare Issues, Must Reads, Who We Are.

8 Comments

  1. I am so sorry for taking so long to get back to everyone. I had thought I’d dealt with the emotion of it all – but your kind words of support blew me away and had me a bit teary. Thank you all so much – you’ve filled my heart. So sorry not to be continuing, but will be good for me to have my life back, lol. xox

  2. Good Luck Muriel

    It’s sad to see you forced out of doing such great work.
    The penalties for not complying with the legislation regarding registered charities are impressive.
    Just last evening I was told of an act of unbelievable cruelty and depravity to a cat. The story is that
    the Gardai know those responsible but cannot do anything because they are under age. Isn’t it time to
    start trying these kind of people in the courts as adults. It’s they who should get ten years in prison.
    Instead they go unchallenged and may be tomorrow’s serial killers. However the law is concerned instead
    with stopping you in your kind work.

    Ger

  3. Incredibly saddened to hear that you are reducing your voluntary work and closing this excellent site Muriel.
    Your unstinting devotion to animals has been inspirational for many years.
    On behalf of all those creatures who, without your selfless intervention would have perished, I wish to thank you unreservedly.
    You deserve a statue!
    All the very best for the future.

  4. Huge loss Muriel but I can understand why you cannot continue .A million thanks for everything you have done for so many! A very comprehensive and informative post, best wishes 👍

  5. Thank you so much for all that you have done. You have made such an impact to every single animal you have helped and they were so lucky to have you! You have inspired me to continue my help with animals, while it’s nothing on the scale of what you have done, I can wholeheartedly say thank you, for everything.

    I wish you nothing but love x Sam

  6. Muriel, gutted to hear this but understand your reason’s. Its a dismal read but really lays out all the points about why these vulnerable animals have been let down repeatedly. You have done above and beyond your share to make a difference to so many animal’s. Hugs to you being forced to make what I know must have been a very difficult decision. I have huge respect for you and all that you have done.
    Ber

  7. So very sad. You have been an inspiration to us. Your help and support in our early days was with out doubt fantastic. Xx

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