Charity Spotlight: RSPCA North Sussex branch needs more young volunteers and black cat adopters

From left: an ex-RSPCA volunteer, Julie Parsons, Animal Collection Officer, and Anita Marsland, chairman,
From left: an ex-RSPCA volunteer, Julie Parsons, Animal Collection Officer, and Anita Marsland, chairman,

As part of a charity spotlight series, the chairman of the RSPCA Sussex North branch spoke with us about their need for more young volunteers and how they will never put a healthy cat down.

"We urgently need more young trustees and fundraisers,” said Anita Marsland, chairman of the RSPCA Sussex North branch.

Mrs Marsland started working at the branch in Patcham, Brighton, 12 years ago, assessing people before they adopt an animal, before working her way up to become a trustee and eventually, chairman.

She said most of the charity’s current volunteers are older, and either semi-retired or retired.

The branch formed 41 years ago, and last year someone left who had been volunteering there since it first started.

Mrs Marsland said: “People know about the national RSPCA, but don’t tend to know about their local branches.

“We’re fully run by volunteers, and we really need more young people to not only be trustees, but to be fundraisers and go to events to promote the RSPCA.”

“Black cats are still the last to be adopted”

The charity goes through peaks and troughs in how many cats they have.

Kitten season is usually in spring and autumn, but summer can be one of the hardest times to find new homes for animals as people going away holiday don’t want to adopt.

At the time of our interview, Mrs Marsland said there were no cats in the branch at all.

She said: “Black cats are still the last to be adopted, but older cats don’t seem to have much trouble with finding new homes.

“Cats that are more shy, we take to Hayling Island where they have more time and a bigger space, to help them come out of their shell.”

Mrs Marsland addressed the misconception about putting down healthy animals, saying: “We will never put a healthy cat down, but if one is struggling to be adopted we will take them to another area which usually helps them to find a home.”

Adopting an animal from the RSPCA

Home visits are necessary for everyone who wants to adopt or reserve an animal, and are repeated after about six months if someone wants to take on another.

Mrs Marsland said: “We do home visits before reserving or adopting an animal can happen to assess the place and people, and afterwards to see how everyone’s settling in.

“People’s attitude has a lot to do with whether or not we allow them to adopt, as well as the personality of the cat and what we feel the cat would cope best with.

“We tend to say no to children under the age of five, but it depends on the cat as a more boisterous cat may want to be with a more energetic household.

“We would be hesitant to allow someone living on a main road to adopt, but again it depends on the cat, as an indoor cat would likely be fine.”

Sometimes if a cat is struggling to be adopted or they’ve been brought back to the shelter a couple of times, the charity will take them to their cattery in Roffey, as a change of area can help long stay cats.

They also try to get cats adopted away from the area they were brought in, in case they try to go back to their previous home.

Open mornings are held on the first Saturday of every month from 10am to 12pm, to give people a chance to come and meet the cats who are looking for a home.

Services the RSPCA provide

The branch covers Horsham, Haywards Heath, Crawley and the surrounding villages, and provides welfare assistance, cattery rehoming, and donates to other areas in the charity that need help, like equine care.

They have a dental clinic at Roffey in Horsham, as well as helping with financial assistance for people on benefits, charging £16 for the initial consultation and basic treatment.

They also run a low cost neutering and microchip campaign for people living in their branch area and on benefits including Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

While they have to prioritise cats that their inspectors bring in and cannot take other species of animal, they will still help wherever possible.

Although the RSPCA will look after them for no cost, they do request donations where possible to help with boarding and veterinary costs.

How to get involved

Volunteers meet in Handcross every month - for more information on how to get involved, please click here.