Soft heart but strong

WORKING for an organisation whose main aim is to ensure the safety of animals and enforce animal welfare might seem like a dream job for animal lovers, but the reality can often be very different.

Despite being on the frontline for animal welfare, the role of an inspector for RSPCA WA can also be challenging and present them with sights and situations that would reduce even the most hardened animal lover to tears.

It�s for this very reason that general inspector Kylie Green tells the Courier that it�s not a job suitable for everyone.

The majority of cases are not extreme but Ms Green said the job still required a �special kind of person� to be able to deal with the worst cases.

�(Inspectors) become inspectors because we�re passionate about animals, but if faced with a particularly horrible case we don�t have time to be emotional,� she said.

�I�ve never cried on the job but I�ve certainly gone home and cried at the end of the day, because I have to be professional (while investigating a case) as I only get one chance to get all the information I need to know to make a case.�

The primary role of an inspector is educator, offering advice to pet owners on how to cope with difficult pets or how to better care for animals that might�ve been neglected.

�Our role is mostly education and offering advice on what pet owners should or could be doing to better care for their animal, but we also have to have animals surrendered if we feel a person can�t cope,� she said.

�People have different ideas on pet ownership and what it requires from them, and they are often two extremes: some people pamper their pets, let them live mostly inside, sleep on their bed, give them treats twice a day, make sure they�re well feed.

�The other extreme is pets that are always outside, they�re occasionally given fresh food and water and that�s it, so we try to help out in cases before they get that bad.�

She also has to keep her wits about her because not everyone is welcoming when an RSPCA inspector turns up on their doorstep.

�The public perception of what we do is improving but it�s not always positive,� she said.

�People can get short and defensive, especially when they feel their reliability as a pet owner is being called into question and that�s understandable.

�A lot of the time though reported cases have been exaggerated or the people making reports don�t really know what�s going on, but they�re concerned enough to make a report and in those cases things are fine and I have a chat about how I can help in that situation.�

Ms Green said she dealt with upwards of 100 cases per month, from the easy to the downright bizarre, with one of the quirkier reports she�d received including someone believing their sheep were being controlled by aliens.

�There was also a Father Christmas in a shopping centre with a reindeer and someone reported it as animal cruelty because the animal looked upset. We have a little laugh at that in the office because who�s going to charge Father Christmas with animal cruelty?!�

The Courier rode along Ms Green on Tuesday morning to visit a number of cases and find out exactly what the job of general inspector entailed.

9.31am, Secret Harbour: Report of a cat making �shrieking� noises and looking unwell.

�The cat looked like it has lost a bit of weight, but they said it has been eating. The owner wasn�t home, but their daughter was. So I am writing out a direction for them to take the cat to see a vet within 24 hours.�

10am, Secret Harbour: Report of owners frequently yelling at their dog.

�The dog was about seven or eight months old, and the owner admitted that it had been chewing on things and digging a lot, and that they do yell at it out of frustration. I suggested some ways for them to help with correcting the dog�s behaviour, such as specific toys for it to play with, some exercises and other methods because yelling is obviously not working. I have no concerns for the dog. I look for signs that would suggest a pet is being mistreated, but this dog was happy to see me, it came up to me with its tail wagging looking for a pat; it was in a good condition and it didn�t cower around the owner. That all suggests it�s loved and cared for.�

10.36am, Leda: Report of dog with a skin condition that is tied up in the yard with no food, water or shelter.

�This was an interesting job and definitely worth it. The owners got the dog from a rescue shelter, so that says they�re caring people. They said it was a fence jumper and that�s why it gets tied up, but it has a kennel, has lots of water and the owners frequently take it for a run. It does have an ongoing severe skin issue, which has been improved and I�m confident the owners aren�t the cause. (The owners) are definitely trying very hard to care for this dog as best they can, but I offered them some verbal direction to see a vet because I believe the dog would benefit from some attention because there�s obviously an irritation or other issue causing the skin irritation and causing the dog to scratch. So they have to do that within a week (as we drive to the next job the owner calls to confirm they have made an appointment to see a vet the following week).

11.10am, Casuarina: Report of a skinny looking horse in a field resembling a �rubbish tip�, as well as dogs locked in a cage.

�The owners aren�t home, so we�ll walk along the side of the property to see if we can find the horse.� We walk along the vacant lot next door and spot the dogs in a sheltered caged area. �There are the dogs. I can see that they�ve got food and water, and even though they don�t seem too pleased to see us they look healthy. And there�s the horse� and a sheep! You can see the horse�s ribs but that is often a sign of age. I will leave a note for the owners to call me and have a chat. I�m interested to find out the age of the horse and whether it is a former racehorse. I also want them to have that sheep shorn!�

11.35am, Baldivis Vet: Collect a six-week-old kitten to take to RSPCA headquarters in Malaga.

�This kitten was found by a family in their backyard two weeks ago. It was very skinny and not in the best condition. (The family) couldn�t care for it and got in touch with us. It stayed overnight at the vet after having a check, and I will now take it to Malaga, where we will begin the process of getting it rehomed. My guess is it will probably be fostered to begin with.�