Mar 212018
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

For people who care about animal welfare, supporting an animal shelter seems like a great way to help – but how many know what kind of shelter they are donating to? Last August Zara Brown, who said she was running a shelter, was found to have committed a catalogue of horrific offences.

Investigators found, for instance, a freezer stuffed with seven dead dogs and a cat.

Animals were left in dark, cold buildings with inadequate food and water and without medical treatment.

The courts were told poor Zara was depressed and was unable to cope.  She got off very lightly for the cruelty inflicted.

Then we learned she was a convicted fraudster to the value of some £37,000.

Clearly we cannot have people who are convicted fraudsters handling animals and money.

Facebook posts show that awareness of huge problems at her animal sanctuary existed long before she was ever convicted – why was no action taken?

A recent proposal to the Scottish government would see the SSPCA and police tackle the unscrupulous animal charity.  However, is the SSPCA really the right body to deal with this?

One long-running animal welfare group, Animal Concern Advice Line, likes the idea, but opposes SSPCA involvement. It recently told its supporters:

“We oppose this for three main reasons.

“1: The Scottish SPCA is the largest owner and operator of animal rescue centres in Scotland and as such should be regulated and policed by the scheme just like every other rescue and rehoming operation.

“2: Some of the smaller rescue, rehab and rehoming operatives harbour ill feeling towards the Scottish SPCA and would find it extremely difficult to be part of any scheme administered and/or policed by the SSPCA.

“3: Dumping the administration and policing of any scheme on the shoulders of the Scottish SPCA would mean that yet again the Scottish SPCA would be spending charity donations to do work which should be funded by central or local government thus reducing the resources available to the Scottish SPCA to help animals for whom no-one has a legal duty of care.”

Sadly the SSPCA has come in for a lot of deserved criticism of late. Its issues include:

  • Raising the chief executive’s salary to a whopping £216,000 without any consultation with the army of donors (I collected money for the SSPCA and donated for years – to help animals not to pay a massive salary to an executive – Suzanne).  The latest on this is that the chair has left.
  • Killing a harmless snake which was misidentified as poisonous by putting it in a freezer to die alone in the dark.  I asked repeatedly why, when the snake had already been captured could it not have been left alone until an expert could assess it – no answer was forthcoming.

When the salary of the chairman went up, the SSPCA closed its Shetland facility, with Mike Flynn of the SSPCA making the shocking claim that the SSPCA’s role was not to keep a building open in case there was an oil spill.

The facility was not strictly used for oil-accidents, and the closure dismayed residents.

Keeping the shelter open would have cost a fraction of what the chair’s salary rise was.

Initially Mr Flynn was critical of an Aberdeen scheme to kill deer on Tullos Hill to plant trees (a government report had already said trees could not be established in numbers because of the soil matrix being poor).  He was cheered for condemning the move – but when later asked for further comments on the scheme he called ‘abhorrent’ he simply stopped replying to correspondence.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line has been campaigning for licensing and policing of animal rescue centres and sanctuaries for many years.

He said:

“I want to see all animal rescue and rehoming centres brought up to a high minimum standard of animal welfare, public safety and financial accountability. Sadly a small number of rescuers get it very wrong causing animals to suffer and the public to lose trust in the whole sector.

“Some put people at risk of death by placing potentially dangerous dogs in totally unsuitable new homes. Others fail to carry out  proper home checks and risk placing animals with potential abusers. Most of the problems are caused by well-intentioned people who don’t have the space, skills or finances to do things properly.

“Regretfully a few are criminals who knowingly abuse and neglect animals while conning the public and grant-giving trust funds out of money.

“It is a great pity that the many  good and trustworthy rescue centres are going to encounter a bit more red tape and expense to meet a new licencing regime but that is what it is going to take to get rid of the cowboys and criminals.

“One major problem is in finding an organisation to administer and police the licensing scheme.

“The Government wants the Scottish SPCA to run things but that would be wrong as the Scottish SPCA has more animal rescue centres than any other organisation and should not police itself.

“Police Scotland and local authorities, some of which have their own rescue kennels, have legal responsibilities for stray dogs thus rendering them unsuitable to manage the scheme.

“I suggest responsibility  be given either to the existing Animal & Plant Health Agency or to a new body created by the Scottish Government.”

A bona-fide animal rescue will either be a registered Scottish charity or will otherwise let you look at its accounts.

A genuine rescue will not be selling animals for slaughter while asking people to donate to save the lives of other animals – it is not possible to do both ethically, morally or logically (how can one pig be worth saving and another pig be worth killing?).

As the Scottish consultation points to the unsuitability of convicted fraudsters handling public donations, no reputable animal rescue will have anyone who has form as a fraudster or confidence trickster taking in donations.

Hopefully a suitable arrangement can be found, but for reasons pointed out by Mr Robins and by this article, the SSPCA should not be involved in regulating an industry it itself participates in – and which has failed in its duty.

Spotlight on Northfield Animal Haven

Despite its continuing threats to close (and its threats and insinuations against its critics), Northfield Animal Haven continues to:

  • Seek donations, buy animals (wrong for any charity, but wrong for one so apparently short of funds).
  • Sell animals at Thainstone market, where many if not all will wind up slaughtered.

Here is an extract from a previous article. Despite false claims from Northfield, neither Aberdeen Voice or Suzanne Kelly (myself) have been in any way prevented from writing about the odd goings-on at this place.

Fact Recap:

  • That Kelly Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster [3]– this calls her honesty into question;
  • That Kelly Cable denied signing for a substantial loan [4]– again her honesty was thrown in doubt;
  • That signs and funding appeals stating ‘all farm animals are rescued are misleading [5].There seem to be two Northfields – one that keeps some animals as rescues – while breeding for sale from these [6.1-3], and one that sells animals at Thainstone Market and privately where slaughter is the almost inevitable outcome [7]This schism is condemned by many animal welfare professionals including John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line [8].
  • When cornered on this issue, Kelly has made posts along the lines of ‘everyone’knows that she operates a working farm and that the reason she uses pictures of animals in her appeal such as sheep and cattle that are not to be rescued is ‘people have asked to see all the animals’ [9]. Donors Aberdeen Voice had contact with were completely in the dark on the point, and would never have donated to money to an institution that breeds from its rescue for sales, and raises farm animals for commercial purposes.
  • That Cable used, without any contact or permission, images of animals she had nothing to do with for fundraising purposes – this calls transparency and honesty into question (the image on the left of an emaciated bovine is not an animal Cable was trying to rescue; it is from 2011 in the USA  [10].
  • That Cable has claimed to different witnesses to have disabilities and illnesses [11.1-11.4]; she has told several people these illnesses lead her to use cannabis on the farm and that alcohol and drug use by others is tolerated by her at Northfield around the 170 animals she says she cares for single-handedly. This clearly poses threats to animal welfare – and that has led to serious consequences as this article will demonstrate. This drug use should also be of serious concern to anyone using her animal assisted therapy programme.
  • There are allegations of cannabis sales which the authorities are aware of [12]. (As an aside, cannabis can be a very therapeutic medical boon to some. The appropriateness of seeking public donations while using/selling cannabis on a farm by a disabled woman who purports to single-handedly care for over 170 animals where neglect and deaths have occurred should raise red flags to animal welfare authorities and those concerned with public safety).
  • Northfield has itself posted about animals that have died ‘from a broken heart’ or overeating.
  • Northfield has also posted that Suzanne Kelly was involved in going to their farm, damaging fences, locking a pony in a food store where it ate itself to death.
  • A previous Northfield Facebook administrator, Fiona Manclark, was ordered to pay Suzanne Kelly £15,000 plus costs for repeated libel (Manclark had months in which to simply make an apology without facing any costs, but forced the matter to court). Ms Manclark spectacularly wrote to the court to excuse her failure to turn up, and in her letter she wrote that cannabis is routinely used at Northfield, a claim which fits in with other peoples’ allegations of drug use and dealing.  While many people feel cannabis use should be legalised, many would question whether a disabled woman who claims to care for over 70 animals, some of whom have died in her care from exposure and feeding issues – and who offers animal therapy to young people – should mix cannabis with an animal welfare charity offering therapy.
  • Ms Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster (see past AV articles).

This all adds up to irresponsibility fiscally, operationally, and safety wise on a worrying scale.

https://aberdeenvoice.com/2016/10/northfield-animal-haven-haven-hell/

Northfield and its supporters first began to attack Aberdeen Voice and myself when we repeated a press release (the Press & Journal printed it too) merely calling for a voluntary registration scheme for shelters which would ensure animal welfare.

What Northfield will make of mandatory regulation excluding fraudsters from running animal charities remains to be seen, but whether or not the SSPCA is involved, a regulator in this sector will spell the end for any fraudsters operating animal shelter charities.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 232013
 

The Scottish SPCA is appealing for information after a cat was found injured in Kincorth, Aberdeen, believed to have been thrown from a car.

Abandoned CatScotland’s animal welfare charity was called to rescue the grey and white female tabby cat after a couple reported seeing her being thrown from a red hatchback car travelling along Cairngorm Drive at around 7.45am on Tuesday morning (20 August).

The cat landed on the road and was then run over by another car following behind.

Remarkably she escaped with only minor injuries and is now recovering in the care of the Scottish SPCA’s Aberdeenshire Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre at Drumoak where staff have named her Delilah.

Animal Rescue Officer Karen Hogg said:-

“Understandably Delilah was absolutely petrified when I came to collect her and she just wanted to coory into me for comfort.  I took her straight to the vet to be examined but amazingly she has survived her terrifying ordeal with only scuffing to the pads of her feet and a small scrape on her nose, although we’ll continue to monitor her condition in our care. 

“The couple who witnessed the incident said they saw something being thrown from the car before it sped off and then they saw the cat lying on the road. Unfortunately they said the car travelling closely behind ran right over the top of her and she tumbled to the side of the road before darting away through gardens and settling on a window ledge.

“Delilah has used up at least two of her nine lives in what appears to have been an incredibly cruel act.  Although this was a fairly quiet, residential street, it is just off a busy main road so someone may have seen the car in the area and may have noticed the occupant(s) acting suspiciously. 

We are very keen to trace the person or persons responsible for Delilah’s abandonment so we are asking anyone who recognises the cat or witnessed the incident to contact our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 312012
 

Lush Aberdeen in conjunction with eight other Lush stores throughout Scotland is holding a ‘Willows Weekend’ in association with Willows Animal Sanctuary and Animal Assisted Therapy Unit.

Willows work tirelessly to look after over 300 animals including almost 70 horses, donkeys and ponies approximately 60 cats and dogs and many reptiles as well as over 100 farm animals and birds.

They specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well-known larger national charities and are totally dependent on donations, legacies and grants from benevolent organizations to keep the sanctuary running.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary of its type in the Aberdeenshire area and it is a constant struggle for this non-profit organisation to raise the enormous funds needed to feed, house and provide veterinary care for the many animals under their protection.

Their Animal Assisted Therapy Unit has benefitted many disabled and vulnerable people in the community and this service has become a highly valued aspect of the Sanctuary.

Deborah Cowan, store manager for Lush Aberdeen had this to say:

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity to raise much needed funds for Willows, and we’re really excited that all nine Scottish Lush stores have come on-board to support this wonderfully worthwhile charity. We will have flyers in store that have information about Willows, as well as info about a few of the adoptable animals looking for their forever homes.

“Willows have also kindly provided footage of the sanctuary and the animals which we will be playing instore. “

All proceeds excluding VAT from sales of Charity Pot hand and body cream on Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd of September will go to Willows to help support the amazing work that they do.

Lush Aberdeen will be providing in-store activities on the day and are encouraging people to bring in any old pillowcases and clean plastic shopping bags. These will become the stuffing for the pillowcase mattresses that the Team will make for the many cats and dogs and other small animals that call Willows their home. They are also encouraging people to donate any pet food that they can spare.

Deborah also stated,

“All people have to do to show their support, is come into any Lush store in Scotland this weekend and purchase a Charity Pot hand and body cream. Lush make no money from this beautiful product, and for this weekend only, all proceeds excluding VAT will go to Willows. We have 3 sizes to choose from and to say thank you for your purchase here in Aberdeen, customers can make their very own Space Girl or Blackberry Bath Bomb!”

The stores taking part are: Aberdeen, Glasgow Sauchihall St, Glasgow Buchannan St, Glasgow Braehead, Livingston, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh.

Many of the above stores will also advertise the event on their shop Facebook pages so to find out about what is happening in your local area, use the Facebook search function to find your local shop.

Find out more about Willows at their website: http://www.willowsanimals.com/ The Charity has regular open days that are a perfect day out for the whole family.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated
Jun 142012
 

Willows Animal Sanctuary announced two new patrons – Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk.  The couple were at Willows answering questions, visiting the animals, even playing a few acoustic bars of Bad Company Songs last week.  Would the voice behind Bad Company, Free and The Firm be at home on an Aberdeenshire farm?  Yes, and then some, as Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly found out.

When I last spoke to Paul Rodgers it was for a split second while backstage when The Firm – Jimmy Page, Tony Franklin, Chris Slade and Paul Rodgers – were on tour in America, playing massive arenas and Madison Square Garden… I was a very lucky girl indeed.

When I saw him next, he was petting a cat at Willows, comparatively in the middle of nowhere.  Willows had just celebrated its twelfth anniversary, and in these troubled times is financially stretched.

The Rodgers’ have been supporting Willows and adopting animals there for some time, but what more could Paul and Cynthia do?   And how in the world did they find out about Willows to begin with?

Well, they had to be genuine animal lovers, there is no other way they’d wind up in this part of the world.  The press conference started and Paul launched straight into the subject:-

He jokes about finding Willows.

“I thought we were on our way to Sweden, and Cynthia persuaded me this was a shortcut.” 

Cynthia explains in a little more detail

“We were on our way to Sweden where Paul was going to perform with Sandi Thom. She told us about Willows before, and we wanted to see it.”

Paul continues

“This past Christmas we decided to give our nieces and nephews sponsored animals as presents.  I think half of them are still wondering where their gift is.”

The couple sponsored a dozen or more animals for life last year around Christmas time, which was when I recall first seeing their names linked to Willows.

Cynthia continues

“We spoke with Jenny about fundraising. We wanted to help, and we’ve come up with a few ideas.  No one wants to see it shut.”

 ‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other

The ideas they launched include an international raffle to celebrate the twelve years of Willows’ operations – the top prizes include an acoustic guitar played and signed by Paul, a painted tambourine, other autographed presents, and two mystery gifts.

There will also be an online charity shop (donations needed) and the plan is to raise Willow’s profile, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Raffle tickets are on sale now, available online at http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Paul added

“I have a huge respect… I am amazed that they take in horses, donkeys, stick insects– ‘all creatures great and small.’”

Cynthia then brought up the importance of Willows to people.  She retold one particular story -there are dozens – about the animal assisted therapy Willows offers, and how it has changed, if not saved lives.  The story concerns a young boy who was anorexic, a rare but increasing problem for young men, who was involved with Willows therapy.

One day he arrived unexpectedly, just after Willows had accepted a very badly treated horse.  This particular creature had a fractured pelvis, yet its owners were trying to ride it.  The horse became understandably more and more ‘of a diva’ and when it was sent to Willows, the fracture was discovered.  By then the horse had little time or trust for people.

The horse was still in an upset state, and was in a field on its own.  Willows staff could see the young boy was going up to the horse and they were quite concerned as the boy didn’t know the horse’s sad story or condition.  Well, somehow the horse and the boy got along famously from the first minute they met.

‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other.  The horse improved, and so did the boy, who is now living a happy, stable life.

 Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident

The story of a little girl in a wheelchair was told; she was in a crowd visiting the sanctuary, and was having problems seeing what was going on.  A horse named Ninja put its head onto her lap and gently nuzzled her.  These may seem like little things to you and me, but for people who have problems, such little things can make an entire world of difference.  This is not sentiment, it is fact.

“There are over 300 animals here, and there’s a story for each one” Paul says, “and there’s a book in it.”  This thought gives me some ideas, we will see.

The Rodgers and Willows staff explain that the government does not give them grants any longer, due to the economic crisis and budget cuts.  They have had to be self-funding for the past year and a half.  Not exactly a great position when you are a last-chance sanctuary for so many unwanted wild, domestic and farm animals.

“The lives of animals are not something you can walk away from” Paul says, and that’s how I feel myself.

Before the press call got going, I had started to ask if the Rodgers had any pets.  I thought I misheard them, because I thought I heard ‘thirty-six cats’; (I put this down to my listening to too much loud music over the years).

“We had thirty-six cats at one point” Paul says – they were all rescued animals.

Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident. This poor pet needed help with all of its needs, and it sounded to me like it wound up with the right people.  There is chez Rodgers, a Shepherd crossbreed which weighs 91 pounds, and currently they are down a mere eight cats. Somehow through all this it emerges that Cynthia is allergic to cats – my sympathies indeed, as I am too, despite having two rescue cats myself.

“We have had some interesting trips to Mexico” Rodgers says.

His experiences in Mexico are far from any rock star cliché – they go there and bring back abandoned cats.  They describe going back through US customs with several cats at a time, and because it is standard Food & Drug Administration procedure, they have to declare that the cats ‘are not for human consumption’.  Such are the workings of governments.   

“All of our friends have two cats now – we meet them at the airport and they just take the cats then.”

Well, you can’t say they’re not cat lovers.

The press call then takes a tour through Willows to visit the various animals, something I’d been greatly looking forward to doing again. I was on the lookout for some old favourites of mine.   Sandi Thom has adopted a giant, 18 hands high horse named McGill, who’s out in a pasture. We visit Arthur the cat, found living on waste ground in an empty paint can, the lovely three-legged Elly, and a host of other creatures, all warmly greeted by the Rodgers.

I ask Cynthia for a comment on what I see as being one of the biggest problems at present – people abandoning animals.  She has this to say:-

“People fall on hard times.  Reach out for help; don’t be embarrassed.  But you need to treat living things as you would like to be treated: pet ownership is a lifelong commitment.  There are those who will come behind and help.”

And on that note I leave her, tending to Arthur the cat that needs some medicine.   If you can come behind and help Willows, then please get in touch.

Coda:  Look out for Paul Rodgers performing with an orchestra works from his career.  Also look out for a Sandi Thom concert at Willows in July.
http://www.paulrodgers.com/news.html

 

Mar 012012
 

Aberdeen Voice photographer Rob and I attended Willow’s Animal Sanctuary Open Day on 25 February and had an absolutely wonderful time. Were it not for the snow which started when we were there, Rob would have had a hard time getting me to leave. Suzanne Kelly reviews a splendid day out.

It was a nice drive to Willows from Aberdeen; the countryside is beautiful.

Willows was well signposted, and a helper was on the main road to ensure people found their way.

It is a spacious and friendly haven for animals and people. Getting to know some of each was a pleasure.

I met Sue during the event, and she told me that when she and her husband moved to Scotland six years ago, they soon discovered Willows, had visited and supported them during that time and wanted to do more.

It was then that Kate found that there were like-minded people who really wanted to help, so they were introduced. Now they have a fundraising team who have thrown themselves into their task with a will.
Although they have only been together for about fifteen months, they have already raised over £9,000 through, to name but a few events, stalls at open days, coffee mornings and bingo evenings. The team now numbers eight, Sandy, Sue, Ann, David, Ashleigh, Leigh, Lorna and George.

There are many people who help with donations of prizes etc, and who help support the team in various ways. They have lots of new ideas for future events, so have confidence that the visitors will really enjoy themselves whilst supporting Willows

“Willows not only helps animals, but we’re definitely helping people as well,” Sue tells me, “We’ve seen people blossom.” 

The office has a noticeboard divided into several sections. There are general news stories and items about animal sentience.

Yes, they do think, and feel, and know both pain and fear as well as love and happiness.

One section was about the fantastic work Willows does in bringing people with special abilities together with the animals. Both sides benefit from this interaction.

We now know that people with conditions such as autism improve hugely through interaction with animals. Horses and ponies can provide unique, valuable therapeutic benefits.

Sue and I talk a bit more, and she tells me of a fairly new arrival, McGill, a gigantic horse at 18.2 hands.

“His owners had rented him out, and then of course, you never know whether there were any problems, and consequently, when he came to Willows he was very nervous. And he had some behavioural issues”, was how Sue described McGill.

Having worked with horses in my distant past, I was ready for a highly-strung encounter with a giant. Well, McGill was indeed a giant, but he had an unbelievably sweet temperament.

Rob and I stayed and stroked him for quite some time; many others did too. If this horse had had any emotional issues, they were a thing of the past. Sandi Thom has since adopted him. She originally had adopted another animal, but it had sadly passed away.

Well, we and families patted goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, ponies, horses and the most amazingly friendly selection of cats you could ever find.

The majority of them sat on a large hay bale, which the sun was hitting. They were all soaking up the sun and loved being patted.

I particularly fell for a little feline called Gingersnap, and another gentleman called Arthur.

Arthur had been living in a tin can in a bit of scrub ground when they found him.
Sadly, he lost both his ears to skin cancer, not uncommon in white cats. I was completely won over.

We finally had a chance to talk to Sandi Thom. Her family are from the general area, and they seem to have a love of horses going back generations. Sandi seemed genuinely glad to be there, and signed several autographs as we spoke.

She’d also donated a very gorgeous autographed acoustic guitar as a raffle prize. We mentioned the generosity of Paul Rodgers and his wife, who adopted some thirteen animals.

Paul has donated several signed copies of his new DVD for Willows to sell (yes, I’d bought one). Ms Thom commented that people she’d met in the music industry often seemed to have a soft spot for animals. She clearly did.

Before we left, we spoke to Mr and Mrs Reid, who seemed to enjoy visiting the horses and have been coming for quite some time.

If the snows hadn’t started and if we didn’t have a fairly long drive back to Aberdeen, I might have stayed until they threw me out.
If I didn’t already have two rescue cats which are just a touch on the needy side, I just might have adopted another.

Please visit the Willows website to learn more. Willows helps wild, domestic and farm animals – and people of all ages.

If you can help, please get in touch. http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Dec 222011
 

Temperatures are plummeting; Holiday lights are being blown down on Union Street, and it’s been snowing in Aberdeenshire.  Local wildlife needs your help to make it through another winter writes Suzanne Kelly.

Seasons are getting wetter; winters are more unpredictable – at least according to the Met Office data.  Animals need to be able to access clean water, food and shelter – your help couldn’t be easier or more important.

If you have a window box or a large garden; if you live near a park or open waste ground, here are some tips.

Water

All living things need water; birds need it to drink and to bathe.  Can you keep a shallow bowl of water outside, keeping it clean?  Then you’ll be doing a large service to wildlife.

Food

If you can afford to buy specialist bird seed or suet and seed balls, that’s great.  But birds will also be grateful for your kitchen scraps, particularly in winter.   Bits of cheese, pet food, cooked pasta, suet, fruit, cereal, and nuts – even cooked eggs and eggshells will be appreciated.  Whatever you choose to feed your birds on, make sure it is kept clean and is out of the reach of predators.

Shelter

Insects, bees, butterflies and birds will greatly appreciate it if you can leave a patch of lawn to grow tall.  This is crucial for many species.  A pile of old wood makes a shelter for insects and small animals.  Bird houses and bee boxes can likewise be bought or made (you will find instructions on the Internet)

Domestic Animals

Domestic dogs and cats do not have the same qualities for surviving harsh weather as wild creatures.  Do not leave your animals outside overnight.  Some cats may like to come and go at all hours, if you can put in a cat flap that might be a solution.  But domestic animals will suffer or possibly perish in extreme weather.  Do not assume it is OK to leave them outside – it is not.

And just in case there are some people who have not got the message yet – do not leave animals unattended in cars.  This is advice from the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA.  In the summer we are still reading stories of dogs dying – they can’t sweat; a closed car which might be a bit uncomfortable to people is an oven to them.  And unfortunately there have been more than a few incidents of dogs being stolen from cars and from in front of shops.

Whatever the weather, if you are leaving an animal alone, if something happened to you out of the blue – what would happen to them.  The advice is – don’t do it.

Gardening for Wildlife

It might not seem like the ideal time of year to do any gardening, but it’s a great time to do some planning.  A wildlife garden even in the city can help our overall wildlife population.  Habitats are being lost at an alarming rate to development.  People are increasingly getting rid of their lawns in favour of parking or paving.

Grass is integral to wildlife survival – birds need to hunt worms; the soil supports all sorts of life, and plants are essential to all forms of wildlife.

It’s never been easier to plan a wildlife garden – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has an online service which will tailor a gardening plan to your exact situation.  The Homes for Wildlife scheme will give you dozens of suggestions – most of which couldn’t be easier to implement.

Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/applications/homesforwildlife/home.aspx for details.

Sep 232011
 

Old Susannah looks back at the week that was. By Suzanne Kelly.

Old Susannah is enjoying a glass of ‘Hello… my name is Ingrid’ (a beautiful brew made with cloudberry) at Brewdog, and is reflecting on another busy week in the Deen.
There was the Periurban conference for one thing. This was announced last minute on the City’s website.
It was an international conference on how cities deal with land on the fringes of the urban areas. I guess people from around the world came to see how wonderfully Aberdeen treats Union Terrace Gardens, Tullos Hill, green space at Westhill and Cove, and Loirston Loch.

The two-day conference was opened by the pioneering champion of all things green: Kate Dean.

I sent in an application, and then found myself invited to the second day’s events. For some reason it seemed they didn’t want me on the first day. I heard lots of important speakers, most of whom said urban sprawl is a problem, and we must all use less resources and re-use what we can. Someone even said ‘planting trees is not a solution’ – Cllr HoMalone please take note.

We heard about city centres emptying out if there is too much urban sprawl, with shops closing and crime and social deprivation becoming a problem. I was just surprised no one from Aberdeen explained how our ‘improving’ Union Terrace Gardens into a car park, ‘cosmopolitan cafe’, the hoped-for monorail and building in the greenbelt were going to save the day. I would have loved to have heard it. 

One City Council official kept turning around in their seat to look at me; for some reason they almost looked worried I was there. Could it have been the ‘Save the Tullos Deer’ t-shirt I wore under my suit jacket?

Someone was there from a local green charity, and somehow I brought up the deer cull situation (my t-shirt might have helped). The person had no idea why the Scottish SPCA was against the cull and what the other issues were. I happily explained.

Elsewhere in the Deen, someone has decided to leave a cat in a wheelie bin. Perhaps they want as much media attention as the woman from Coventry got? You may remember Mary Bale who cruelly left a cat in a bin for hours on end and was caught out. Let’s see if we can’t find the Aberdeen copycat cat botherer and do for them what the press did for Bale.

It would likewise be a shame if shamed Banff Brothers David and Colin Reid of 22 Boyndie Street West, Banff, got any bad press for their dogfighting activity conviction and jail sentences.

This is the Scottish SPCA’s first major dogfighting conviction in Aberdeenshire (where officials denied there was a problem, you may recall), and it is cause for celebration.  The Reids must know something about other dog fighters – let’s hope they roll over.  Thankfully, some of the dogs they were abusing have been rescued.

But anyway, here I am in Brewdog wondering what to write about this week.

I am looking at a recent Press & Journal headline which screams in giant letters: ‘IS THIS THE MOST HATED MAN IN SCOTLAND?‘ As I am always happy to follow where the P&J leads, so let’s skip definitions this week and take a look at the most hated man in Scotland instead. 

Imagine one man using the legal system to the maximum for his own self-interested ends. Imagine him standing alone, unwilling to listen to the thousands of people who want him to abandon the battle.

Imagine for a minute how much taxpayer money and court time he is willing to use up.

Yes, Mr Milne may well be the most hated man in Scotland. For openers there is the legal battle which he’s taking all the way to the highest court in the UK. For those who don’t know, Milne bought land from the City Council – 11 acres in Westhill – for some £335,000. (By the way, who do the rest of us have to know to get deals like that? Jane – can you help?). The land is worth millions.

Apparently Milne agreed with the City to pay a portion of any sale/rental profit to the City. In a really sharp, not at all transparent move, the land was sold from one arm of the vast Milne empire to another Milne company. As you’d expect, such a deal cost over £500,000 to do. Or so Milne claims when his companies say there was no profit left after the sale.  Seems pretty clear to me.

Yes, Milne is appealing (but not to most of us).

You’d have thought that our very generous Council wouldn’t go bothering Stew for a mere 1.7 million pounds (goodness knows the City can waste that much with ease), but it seems the City will be trying to claw back the money.

The courts found in the City’s favour – but Milne would rather drag us on through the legal system and cost the taxpayer more money than shell out.

Yes, Milne is appealing (but not to most of us). Of course if you weigh this against all the associated costs, then there probably won’t be much financial gain. Here’s a clever idea: let’s stop selling our assets at less money than they are worth. Who knows?  We might wind up less than the £50 million in debt we currently are.  But back to Milne.

We come to the subject of the once-beautiful game. Someone’s decided it’s much better to do land deals than try and win matches.

Milne will develop Pittodrie (which could have been rennovated – this has been done elsewhere in the UK) and build in the greenbelt well out of town.  Loirston Loch will be greatly improved by the new stadium. What the remaining wildlife will make of the lack of land, the cars, the additional pollution and inevitable trash is another matter.

I wonder what it’s like to be less popular than the Donald? Will the Dons become the Donalds?

The bottom line is the stadium will glow in the dark (!) and we can have Elton John and Rod Stewart concerts!. (Who cares that two BBC stories this week prove another link between ill health and car exhaust fumes, and Scotland’s wildlife continues to diminish?)

You would have thought that AFC fans would be jumping for joy at the chance to drive/bus/walk to Loirston. Instead, many of them want Milne to jump ship. Things are so desperate that some fans are actively inviting Donald Trump to invest in the club.  Ouch.

I wonder what it’s like to be less popular than the Donald? Will the Dons become the Donalds? Mr Milne might want to stay away from Facebook or AFC fan sites for a wee while, where there is just a hint of dissatisfaction. Such ingratitude – and after all he’s done to us. Sorry – I mean ‘for us’.

Stew’s not very popular in the city centre either. In his proposal for Triple Kirks, he’s promised us more office buildings. Result!

So who’d have thought that putting two glass box buildings next to the Triple Kirk spire (and probably chasing those pesky peregrine falcons away in the process) could make you unpopular? There will be office space – and who wants anything more than more office space?

I’m afraid to say Mr Milne is now as popular with golfers as fox-batterer Forbes would be at an animal rights meeting.

The only problem is parking (not that that is hindering him developing Pittodrie or in creating the stadium – neither has adequate parking in their plans). Where on earth will Stew find any parking solutions close to Triple Kirks? If only there was some empty, under-used space nearby – maybe something that ‘only has grass’ in it. He could have car parking, the offices would go ahead without a hitch, he’d rake in some money.

People would be amazingly grateful: we would get parking, shopping and ‘cosmopolitan cafes’ – where we can sit and drink coffee year round and be, er, cosmopolitan. If only Stew or his pal Ian could think of some solution to the problem, it would mean more money for Milne. There are some people who think the consultation should have been handled by the city with a lengthy consultation, and that the listed status of Triple Kirks carried a bit of weight.  These people were of course wrong.

And let’s face it: Milne could be low on cash.  Am I alone in thinking he’s short?  He’s chasing a mere 1.7 million through the courts (when he’s supposedly worth about 60 million). He’s about to lay off workers up and down Scotland – he says he can’t afford them.

Perhaps he expanded a bit too quickly? Perhaps he thought new building would continue for ever? Well – with our City Council it just might.

It seems a little ironic that the City is giving Milne contracts (some recent ones total over ten million) while he is both dragging the city through the courts and firing Aberdonians in the building trade. But the people who are in charge know best. 

For reasons of space, I’ll limit this to just one more aspect of the man’s popularity. I’m afraid to say Mr Milne is now as popular with golfers as fox-batterer Forbes would be at an animal rights meeting. It seems that the Portlethen community council and those who use Portlethen Golf Club are up in arms over Milne’s plans to build 153 houses so close to the course that there may be a few problems. Safe to say, people are teed off.

There you have it. The Press & Journal had their own front-page suggestion for ‘the most hated man in Scotland.’ Some of us have a different candidate for that title.

Last word: City Council employees: stop criticising your wonderful employers and managers on the Intranet. First: they don’t like it and are drafting all kinds of means to stop your free speech. Second: that’s my job. I understand they may participate in a 24-hour ‘tweeting’ session to say what excellent services they’ve got going. You are cordially uninvited to tweet back.

Jul 152011
 

New Arc’s Keith Marley talks to the Aberdeen Voice about New Arc’s activities and ways the public can get involved.

While some of Aberdeen’s great and good are spending their time and our money getting their portraits painted and throwing parties to celebrate the great occasion, the entire spectrum of people and animal charities are suffering cuts, and it will get worse.
There is no time like now to get involved with a charity of your choice, and The North East Wildlife & Animal Rescue Centre, better known as The New Arc would like your help.

The Northeast of Scotland has an abundance of wildlife and domesticated animals – but very few resources to cope with abused, injured and/or abandoned animals.  Willows in New Pitsligo is one, and the New Arc in Ellon is another.

Keith Marley from New Arc attended the Tullos Hill picnic in June arranged by Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen Voice.  He entertained many of us with tales of rescued animals of all kinds.  He had once been called to a council flat – only to find it overrun with dogs, rabbits, cats, a parrot and the animal to be taken into care:  a very large pig.  He had to smuggle it out in a blanket to try and avoid embarrassment for its former owners; it was squealing, and kids on the crowded street asked what it was, and he said it was a sick dog.

Unfortunately not many of his stories are amusing.  People who are feeling the economic pinch are abandoning animals – some most cruelly.  A recent news story was that of a cat left in a locked box on the side of the road.  It would have surely been killed or starved to death in its small cage if not for a very eagle-eyed and caring passer-by.   The people who did this are still being sought by the Scottish SPCA.  Just as a reminder – animal cruelty and abandonment are completely illegal (as well as unacceptable to any thinking person)

Animal abandonments are increasing; the cost of driving out to rescue animals has risen with the cost of fuel, and the cost of feeding the hungry mouths at New Arc has risen as well.  Animal charities are in a lose/lose situation at the moment.

Keith would love volunteers to contact The New Arc; he would also love donations.  And ideally, he
would like people to get involved with fundraising:-

“We are asking for volunteers to form a fund raising group – Friends of The New Arc. FONA Ideally
we would like 2 groups, one based in Aberdeen and one covering the rural areas.

“The responsibilities of the fund raising groups will be to raise awareness of the work we do here
and generate fundraising ideas and assist in the coordination, management and implementation of those ideas into reality.

“If you feel this is something you could assist with either by sitting on the committee or by
volunteering your time to assist in carrying out the activities then please contact us by phone on 0796 2253867 or by e-mail at thenewarc1@aol.com

The New Arc will not destroy healthy animals; it seeks to rehome animals where possible or return to the wild as appropriate.  They are, unfortunately unable to take dogs, and at the moment cannot take any more cats.  They have a good number of animals which need homes, so if you can offer a suitable home to one, please do get in touch.

There are many animals which need to stay at the shelter for the rest of their lives – these animals desperately need sponsors.  New Arc also features a lost/found pet section on their website.  The website also offers useful tips as to how to assess and react to an animal in the wild.

There is no government funding – New Arc runs on volunteers and donations:  all monies donated go directly on maintaining the sanctuary and caring for the animals.  Here is a video of New Arc in action:-

Most young wild animals will have a parent or parents somewhere nearby; it is almost always best to leave a young wild animal alone – if you touch it, the odds are the parents will abandon it.  What might seem like an injured or abandoned wild animal to you or me may just be a fledgling.

If you do encounter an injured animal, there is also good guidance on what to do.  The New Arc seem to take calls ‘round the clock; I once needed Keith’s help and despite having a hospital appointment on the same day, he showed up to assess the problem I reported as soon as he could.

Please do visit the website at:  http://www.thenewarc.org/  and if you can help the New Arc, then please get in touch.

 

Dog-fighting – No Room For Complacency In Aberdeen

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information  Comments Off on Dog-fighting – No Room For Complacency In Aberdeen
Feb 252011
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

The Council said organised dog-fighting is not happening here (at least they put that in writing to me a few years back).
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the BBC and the police are not so sure.  Back in 2007 there was an allegation that men were deliberately hunting the streets of Aberdeen with Staffordshire type dogs, looking for cats for the dogs to attack.

There was the recent incident in Seaton where a pet cat was held down by two men so a dog could savage it. Unfortunately, the police don’t seem to have found anyone for this crime yet.

Dog-fighting equipment and dogs were found in several areas north of Aberdeen not long ago as well. Two swans were recently found badly injured near Bridge of Dee (they are recovering), and on 14 February a swan was found in this same area – dismembered.  While this last crime (injuring wild animals is a criminal offense) must have been done by a person, it was in the same general area that the dog-injured birds were found. Given these incidents it seems we do have a problem. The problem can be solved if people come forward and let the authorities know (anonymously if they wish) who is involved.

It is bad enough that there is such a visible increase in the number of dogs which could be classified as ‘pit bull cross breeds’ or ‘fighting type dogs’ under the Dangerous Dogs Act. In addition, many of the dogs in the ‘dangerous’ category which we see on the street are not on a lead and a few seem to be owned by people who are simply not interested in the dog’s welfare. The Dangerous Dogs Act was intended in part to counteract the proliferation of types of animals which were frequently involved in incidents where people were injured.

The psychological makeup of the people involved in dog fighting makes them a danger not just to animals, but to people as well

A dog ring in England was broken up not long ago; the dogs were trained to exhaustion, given live cats and other animals to tear to shreds alive and were made to fight in a pit in a woman’s back garden.

Dog-fight attendees are known to film the dogs torturing cats on mobile phones – the purpose of the cats is to rile the dogs up to fight.

If the dogs would not fight (and frankly, any well-treated dog does not normally want to attack another animal), they were tortured with electric shocks.  In one case which involved nationals of several European countries, an English woman in was eventually jailed and fined. Dog-fighting is (obviously) illegal, and penalties include jail and fines – but some say the existing law is not strong enough.

The psychological makeup of the people involved in dog fighting makes them a danger not just to animals, but to people as well. They are detached from suffering, concerned only with money the dogs earn for them;  have abnormal emotional development that make the fights seem ‘thrilling’ and such people are completely ‘beyond the pale’ of what is acceptable behaviour. Getting these people identified, and hopefully convicted will make animals as well as people safer.

The Dangerous Dogs Act saw four types of animal outlawed – but there are now so many cross breeds, it is virtually outdated to say that the fighting is limited to any one breed at all.  As far as breeding goes, a bitch will be bred constantly to produce puppies, kept in complete confinement. One day the exhausted bitch will be so weakened that she and her last litter will be killed, and another bitch takes her place.

This ‘killer instinct’ is drilled into the pups from their first hours.

They are treated with great cruelty, forced into gruelling exercise regimes (which kills some of them in the process), beaten, starved, tortured and ‘rewarded’ by being given live animals to maul.

There is absolutely no place for dog-fighting or for anyone involved in this inhumane, illegal crime in a civilised society.

It is important to remember that even well-treated dogs have ‘turned’ – and attacked, mauled, and killed people – and statistics for these types of attacks are rising year on year. Dogs that have been treated cruelly to deliberately make them vicious are a serious threat to everyone’s safety.

A massive raid in 2007 in Merseyside saw twenty-eight dogs rescued from this fighting culture, and dozens or arrests, brought about by the public confidentially contacting police and animal welfare organisations.

When to call the authorities:

  • Do you see any dogs bearing obvious scarring?
  • Are dogs, cats or other small animals in your neighbourhood disappearing?
  • Do you hear the sounds of animals in pain?
  • Neighbours acting suspiciously and keeping either dangerous dogs or large amounts of dogs?
  • Has a neighbour with a dangerous dog suddenly not own the dog any longer?
  • Suspect something however tenuous?

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said:

“We believe that any dog, regardless of its breed, can be made aggressive through an owner’s lack of training or through deliberate encouragement of bad behaviour.

“The breeding, trading and owning of a dog banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is not only extremely irresponsible and reckless but is also a criminal offence. Anyone caught doing so can expect to face prosecution and a court may order the destruction of the dog.

“We rely on members of the public contacting us as soon as they become aware of any information relating to dog fighting and urge them to contact our animal helpline on 03000 999 999. We can assure people that all calls are dealt with in strictest confidence and information can be left anonymously.”

Just to get the message home:  anyone with information or with any possible tips – however large or small about animal cruelty should call the SSPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.  You don’t have to give your details and any information just might stop animal cruelty.