THE recession is being blamed for the RSPCA's Wirral & Chester branch "facing a bleak future".

The branch – which has been in existence in various guises for around 120 years – has just one year’s worth of running costs in reserve.

The squeeze means services will have to be cut and could result in the scrapping of the borough's animal rescue centre and clinics.

Peter Hattam, branch manager, said: “There’s no doubt times are tough for RSPCA Wirral & Chester branch.

"The merger in 2004 of the previously separate Wirral and Chester Branches strengthened our ability to provide facilities and schemes to support people living on the Wirral, in Ellesmere Port and Chester but the past few years have been hard and we have to cut services or risk going under.”

He said that like many organistations and businesses, the branch has been affected by the recession and over the past few years trustees have been making savings.

Services at the clinic in Birkenhead were reduced from three to two afternoons a week from September, but unless something changes that isn’t going to be enough.

Mr Hattam added: “The clinic in Birkenhead runs at a loss in excess of £20,000 each year and just can’t be sustained.

"It looks likely we’ll need to reduce our commitment to it even further over the coming months and face the possibility we might need to close it sometime next year.”

Re-homing of dogs has significantly reduced in 2010, partly because more rescue dogs are being brought in with ongoing health problems or behavior issues that mean they cannot be re-homed until these matters are improved or resolved.

This also means that the branch is spending more money in caring for or providing veterinary treatment for these dogs, until they are fit enough to be re-homed.

Mr Hattam said: "Staffordshire bull terriers, or ‘Staffies’, have got a bad name, normally through no fault of their own, and these are becoming the predominant breed in kennels.

"As pressures on kennel spaces increase and more cases of cruelty or neglect are reported, unfortunately the future looks bleaker for some of these dogs, who would make really good pets."

The branch receives no direct funding from Government and very little from the RSPCA National Society, so relies entirely on the goodwill of local people and the donations they make.

Mr Hattam concluded: “Without the continuing support of local people, it’s possible the branch will not be able to sustain the clinic or even the animal centre.

"It’s no exaggeration to say that these things could cease to exist within the next couple of years.

"Please, if you care about local animal welfare, help us if you can.”

Anyone who wishes to directly support the Branch can either pick up a standing order form from the Animal Centre in Wallasey or by phoning 0151-638-6318 or download one from the branch website at the link below.

Those wishing to consider the branch in their will can do so by ensuring that any bequest is made for the benefit of RSPCA Wirral & Chester Branch (Registered Charity No 219766).