Monday, 7 September 2009


Scandal of the RSPCA hospital where they kill kittens and pups
Sunday Mirror, Jul 5, 1998 by DOUG KEMPSTER
A CATALOGUE of cruelty and a callous disregard for the care of animals is exposed today by RSPCA workers at one of the charity's biggest hospitals.
The four staff decided to speak out after being sickened by what they claim is a deliberate policy to kill stray kittens and pups because it's cheaper than caring for them.
They reveal how:
NINE pups handed into a police station were put down almost as soon as they arrived at the hospital, even though several policeman wanted to give them homes.
BOSSES ordered pigeons nesting on the hospital roof to be killed.
A LOST labrador with a twisted leg was dissected and its bones boiled so the hospital could study the unusual break before his owner could claim him.
RSPCA staff were told not to become too friendly with strays and were made to put them down if they did.
Staff smuggled kittens to rival charities to save their lives.
"I can't watch Rolf Harris's Animal Hospital when they show you a wild bird having its wings pinned, or broken leg mended," says former RSPCA ambulance driver Debbie Pearman
"I never saw that happen in my time at the hospital. It would have been bumped (put down).'It wasn't so much the care of animals, but the balancing of books that was more important.
"The place became a financial concern. It's as if the hospital had lost sight of its objectives.
"It cost pennies to put down a litter of kittens, but time and effort to care for and rehouse them. Yet it wouldn't have cost the hospital much money because we had loads of people happy to give them homes.
"But we were told it was not policy to do that, so they were put down."'
The hospital where Debbie and her three other colleagues worked until they couldn't take it any more is at Barnes Hill, Weoley Castle, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
It is a huge complex with four wards and operating theatres, dealing with more than 50 animal patients each day.
Yet Debbie, 32, says money, rather than caring for animals, was often the main concern.
She remembers being sent on a 50-mile round trip to collect an injured pigeon from an elderly lady. "'The view was taken that if we presented a caring image this lady might remember us in her will.
"So I was sent in the ambulance with my uniform on to collect this bird in a big show of compassion." added Debbie, who worked for the RSPCA for eight years. "That bird was put down as soon as it reached the hospital."'
The very same day fellow officer Sharon Fox, 28, was ordered to round up pigeons nesting on the hospital roof and kill them. "It was typical," said Sharon, 28, who had been with the RSPCA for seven years before leaving two months ago. "Debbie was making this big show while at the hospital we were supposed to be culling birds.
"I didn't do it, I rounded them up and released them in a field. But as far as the management was concerned they were killed."
Senior staff also discouraged anyone becoming too attached to the animals. Ambulanceman Alan Johnson, 36, who worked with the RSPCA for eight years, made the mistake of showing affection to a stray greyhound.
"I was told that I'd have to bump it. That's what I was made to do," he said."
Strays are supposed to be kept for seven days to see if they are claimed before they are put down, but Alan said that rarely happened.
"'One evening I was called to a police station near Smethwick where officers had found nine pups," he said. "The police were really making a fuss of them. A few officers said they'd be happy to give them homes once they had been checked by our vet.
"I took them to the hospital and told a superior about the police offer. That night the pups were put down.'In the following days the police started ringing and asking what was happening to the dogs.'We were told to tell them that they were fine and that they'd been given new homes."'
Debbie had a similar experience when she was called to collect a dog from the police in Brierley Hill.
"They had found a labrador cross, about 10 years old, with a twisted leg," she said.'"As soon as I saw it I knew it was an old wound. 'It was perfectly healthy and obviously no stray.
"I took it for a check-up at the hospital before ending my shift. 'The next night I discovered the dog had been put down, dissected and its bones were being boiled so the hospital could have the skeleton to study the unusual break. Days later the owners surfaced and the staff were told to say the dog had been badly-injured in a roadaccident and had to be put down. I feel I took that dog to its death.'
Debbie's colleague Paul Marshall, 37, an RSPCA worker for 11 years, said: "'It got to the stage where I was appalled by what was going on."
"People would ring the hospital and say they had found a nest of birds and could we collect them. I would say I would, but pointed out the birds would be put down. I got into trouble for saying this.
"Members of the public would bring in injured animals in the belief they would be nursed back to health and re-released.'But I'd say that in a majority of cases those animals would be put down without a second thought. "Every member of staff would smuggle kittens out of the hospital. Many of us refused to enter them in the admissions book as it would have been signing their death warrants. I know one woman who has re- housed more than 30 cats.
"It was all about money. When I first started we would take fox cubs to release them into the wild, or geese to a bird sanctuary after they had been treated. That has all stopped.
"When we bring in an animal the first thing we are asked is, 'Is it owned or is it a stray?' The hospital has to pay for stray or wild animals itself. So they were just patched up then bumped."
Staff were incensed at the way the hospital's own alsatian, Major was treated. Debbie said: "'He was cooped up in a tiny, filthy run. If a member of the public had been caught by our inspectors keeping a dog like that, they could have been prosecuted.
"Eventually a nurse persuaded the management to let him adopt Major. He had hip problems and the nurse was told he would have to pay for treatment."
Last night RSPCA Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Phillips said: "If these people were genuinely concerned they would have said something long before this, but there will be a full and frank investigation."
He admitted there were occasions when the number of puppies and kittens in a litter had to be reduced
"This is generally where the mother is not in the best of conditions. We have to reduce the number in the litter so that the mother and the other offspring have a chance.
"I can almost certainly say we never killed a dog deliberately to keep its skeleton. The hospital dog belonged to one of these ambulance staff. He offered to take this dog on and promised he would look after it.
"He was cautioned several times because the condition of the kennel was unacceptable. Eventually one of the hospital nursing staff took it on"
Last night the four insisted that none of them had owned the dog.;col1

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