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(Updated 19/8/01)

Blue Cross builds better lives
by Nick Mays

THE BLUE Cross has just published its annual report for the year 2000 in which the charity clearly demonstrates its ongoing commitment to providing veterinary care for animals whose owners cannot afford private treatment.

The report, entitled “Building Better Lives” is presented in a large, glossy format, illustrated with colour photographs of animals and Blue Cross carers, and is divided into sections dealing with each of the charity’s main areas of concern, whilst incorporating important facts and figures such as annual income and expenditure.

The report commences with an address by the charity’s Chairman, Dr Andrew Edney, who summarises the charity’s achievements in the past year, including the rebuilding of the Blue Cross’ Victoria Hospital in London, due to re-open in completely new, refurbished format in late Autumn 2001. Dr Edney also comments at length on the charity’s close co-operation with the Society of Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) in providing a pet bereavement helpline, a service for pet owners who have recently suffered the loss of much-loved pet. Dr Edney’s comment in favour of this service is that “the Blue Cross is just as much a people charity as it is an animal charity.”

Chief Executive Alan Kennard retired in June 2001, having joined the charity in that position in 1989. Mr Kennard’s aim was to build upon the charity’s long-standing commitment to helping animals in need, but he recognised that this challenge was not going to be easy at a time when the needs of the community the Charity serves were changing rapidly.

“The Blue Cross has met this challenge by moving with the times,” writes Mr Kennard. “Retaining its traditional commitment to compassion and care but always being ready to provide practical support where the help is really necessary.”

On the subject of rehoming unwanted animals, the work of the Blue Cross’ 11 adoption centres is highlighted, particularly the Charity’s commitment to help animals overcome behavioural problems. Indeed, half of the animals which come to the adoption centres have some sort of behavioural problem.

As the report points out, the Blue Cross has taken a “trail blazing approach” in this area and was the first UK animal charity to create its own specialist animal behaviour team. In 2000, the charity built upon this by launching an initiative whereby selected members of staff at each adoption centre are trained to deal with minor behavioural disorders in dogs and cats.

Mention is also made of the Blue Cross’ association with veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturers Intervet in the new scheme launched in 2000, “Headstart for Puppies”. As reported previously in OUR DOGS, this scheme is designed to educate breeders and new puppy owners on how to give puppies the best start in life. A similar scheme for kitten owners is due to be unveiled later in 2001.


“The majority of people are very responsible and treat pet animals as a lifetime commitment,” says Director of Companion Animal Welfare, Steve Goody. “But there are still too many owners who give up their animals because they don’t in with their lifestyles. With a bit more long-.term thought about where a pet fits into people’s future plans, there would be a lot less unwanted animals.”

Publicity plays a large part in any animal charity’s ability to generate funds and thus provide a better service. In 2000, TV presenter Anthea Turner, magician Uri Geller and actress Jenny Seagrove all stepped into the media spotlight to promote the Blue Cross’ ‘Take Your Dog To Work’ campaign an even higher profile.

Later in the year, the Blue Cross’ Merton animal hospital (currently covering the Victoria Hospital’s caseload) played host to the fourth series of ITV’s Animal SOS. The nine half-hour programmes attracted an audience of 1.6 million viewers.

Ongoing PR campaigns include the Blue Cross’ own series of leaflets on animal care, including a new range on cat care launched in association with the Feline Advisory Bureau in 2000, entitled CATFACTS. The CATFACTS series got a high-profile launch with the help of the cast of London’s West End hit musical CATS.

Throughout the report, mention is made of the refurbishment of the Charity’s Victoria animal hospital in London. A section of the report is devoted to a profile of this venerable institution and how funds were raised for its refurbishment.

The hospital was opened in London in 1906 and survived the Blitz during WW2 and outlived many of its neighbouring buildings. For almost 100 years, animals had been cared for at “the grand old hospital” which was the first of its kind anywhere in the world, but the hospital had not had a major facelift for more than 40 years and was in need of rebuilding. So, in July 2000, the hospital closed its doors for the very last time.

It had become impossible for the dedicated staff to continue working with the old building literally crumbling around them, so whilst rebuilding took place, all animal treatments were transferred to the Blue Cross’ Merton animal hospital.

Fundraising for rebuilding the Victoria began back in 1996. Former Grand Metropolitan Chairman, Lord Sheppard led the appeal, and with his backing, a network of high-profile supporters set about raising money.

Although the appeal succeeded in raising millions of pounds for the project, by 2000 more funds were still required to reach the ambitious target.

The charity therefore turned directly for help to the 120,000 people who regularly donate to the charity. The response was overwhelming, bringing in a massive £750,000.

A further £91,000 was also raised for the hospital appeal by the Gift Aid scheme. Under the scheme, for every £1 given by a person an extra 28p goes to the chosen provided the donor pays capital gains tax.

Facts and Figures:

Companion Animals in 2000;
The Blue Cross:

• Found new homes for 7,200 dogs, cats and other animals through its 11 adoption centres.
• Managed and developed the Pet Bereavement Support Service in association with SCAS. The service received a total of 1,673 calls form bereaved pet owners.
• Launched a new scheme to train selected adoption centre staff to deal with animal behaviour problems. The Blue Cross’ specialist animal behaviour team conducted a total of 787 consultations.
• Worked with partners in animal welfare and the pet industry to develop new codes of practice in greyhound welfare, the supply of animals to the pet retail industry and the advertising of pets for sale.
• Urged the Government to consider a voluntary scheme to encourage owners to have their dogs permanently identified with a microchip or tattoo.
• Joined Intervet in launching “Headstart For Puppies” and providing an education pack. Over 1,000 breeders attended a nationwide series of seminars arranged by Intervet, featuring Blue Cross animal behaviourist, Gwen Bailey.

Veterinary In 2000:
The Blue Cross:
• Carried out a total of 52,990 consultations in animal hospitals.
• Undertook 10,234 operations at its animal hospitals.
• Ran a fleet of ambulances to help housebound pet owners - around 2,600 animals were transported to and from the London animal hospitals during the year.

Income during 2000:
£5.1 m; Legacies:
£6.4 m; Centres & Hospitals:
£1 m; Payroll and tax-effective giving:
£0.6m; Investment Income: £0.6m;
Total Income: £13.7 million

Expenditure During 2000:
Animal Adoption Centres, Hospitals and Clinics, Equine Welfare, Charitable Support and Education: £11.1 m (76%); Fundraising: £ 2.2 m (15%);
Administration: £1.3 m (9%);
Total Expenditure: £14.6 million ;
Deficit of Expenditure over Income: £0.9 million

• A full copy of the report can be obtained from the Blue Cross at: Shilton Road, Burford, Oxfordshire, OX18 4PF. Tel: 01993 825500, Fax: 01993 823083. Website: