The local face of a national charity

“We’re proud of being part of a national movement, but we work hard to make people understand that we’re a separate local charity and we’re here for our local community”, says Caroline Lewis-Jones, Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA Leeds and Wakefield Branch , who talked to us about the pros and cons of being part of a far wider network, that everyone thinks they know about.

The RSPCA is an interesting organisation, the national charity does the high profile enforcement and intervention work, while the local branches rehabilitate and re-home animals. Obviously, the two organisations work hand in glove and they have a great relationship, but it can create some challenges. For instance, Caroline isn’t sure that people realise how the RSPCA works.  Regular giving campaigns in Leeds City Centre fund the national charity, not the local branch. Quite often people call up asking for help with a neglected animal and the team at the Leeds and Wakefield Branch in East Ardsley have to explain that they can’t help and that the caller will need to contact the national helpline.

The Leeds and Wakefield branch moved into its home four years ago and the rehoming figures are as impressive as the facilities. The centre is licenced to look after eight rabbits, 30 cats and 15 dogs and they try to find new homes for animals as soon as possible.  All in all about 350 animals move through Leeds and Wakefield Branch every year.

Out in the ‘off lead’ area, which they hire out for half hour slots to help out with running costs, one of the volunteers is throwing a ball for a very big, very happy dog.  In the cat accommodation each resident has a profile with a picture, what they like and don’t like and the family they’re looking for. In the old barn, which has been converted  into a conference space for hire, they do yoga on an evening looking out over the fields.

Even, for someone like me, who’s not much into animals, it’s a really welcoming place!

A big part of what RSPCA Leeds and Wakefield Branch do is about education. They go out to schools to talk about the work they do and the range of careers that are available working with animals. They visit care homes because they know that chances to meet with animals really improve people’s well being. There’s often a youth group or school visiting; Caroline or one of the team talk the young people through the basics of looking after another living thing and then some of the dogs come down to say hello.  As well as all the welfare work, money raised through donations and fundraising goes directly towards helping the animals in the centre and keeping it open.

Of course, they know that a lot of people find that companion animals are good for their mental health but that it can be an expensive business keeping dogs and cats fed and watered. So the Leeds and Wakefield Branch makes sure there’s subsidised pet food at its charity shops and they have a great partnership with PDSA, providing subsidised vet services.

In the end, what’s really clear is that for the team at East Ardsley, getting things right for people is just as important as getting it right for animals. As Caroline says; “We are more people orientated than people think. After all every animal has a human in tow.”

About this blog

At TSL we know that the most important thing we can do is get to know as much as we can about the great things that third sector organisations in Leeds are doing, and then share the good news as widely as possible. This is the first in a series of blogs about our visits to get to know organisations of all shapes and sizes.

If you’d like someone to drop by, please contact richard.warrington@val.org.uk

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