WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - BILLY LIN TON ,65

IHAVE been an in­spec­tor with the Scot­tish SPCA, the an­i­mal wel­fare char­ity, in Glas­gow for 13 years. Be­fore that I spent 37 years as a keeper at Glas­gow Zoo work­ing with ex­otic an­i­mals in­clud­ing lions, tigers and ele­phants.

I grew up in Bail­lieston and joined the zoo straight from school and I was the last one to shut the gate on the zoo’s final day [in Au­gust 2003], so it was very emo­tional.

The mis­sion of our job as in­spec­tors is to pre­vent cru­elty to an­i­mals and pro­mote kind­ness and hu­man­ity in their treat­ment. Ed­u­ca­tion is a big thing for us – we go into schools and do talks there ev­ery day dur­ing term time.

An­i­mal cru­elty and ne­glect is a dif­fi­cult sub­ject and you could de­bate it for ever. There are many causes: some­times it can be a fall-out between part­ners and one per­son might do some­thing to an­other’s pet. Peo­ple can also be de­lib­er­ately nasty to an an­i­mal, whether it’s psy­cho­pathic or they get some kind of plea­sure out of it. It can also be some­one who has trou­ble look­ing af­ter them­selves fi­nan­cially. There can also be men­tal health is­sues and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. Ne­glect can be about poverty but not al­ways – you get rich peo­ple ne­glect­ing their an­i­mals as well.

Most of our cases are tip-offs from the public. If you see some­thing in your daily life that doesn’t look right, lift the phone and we will go and take a look. Some­times an over­weight an­i­mal can be more un­healthy than an un­der­weight an­i­mal – it can suf­fer the same as an over­weight hu­man. The owner can think they are not do­ing any harm and that’s where the ed­u­ca­tion comes in. It’s cru­elty through kind­ness.

I have never been phys­i­cally hit on a job but I have been threat­ened. A col­league and I went into a house in Glas­gow once. One of the things we’re told in our train­ing is al­ways keep your back to the door so you can get out – this man told his wife to lock the front door and he went and got an axe. I man­aged to bring the sit­u­a­tion down by talk­ing to him. It was close, but a gen­tle man­ner helps – if you raise your voice, you’ve lost the ar­gu­ment.

My work can be up­set­ting and you do see the se­ri­ous side of life. A cou­ple a months ago I went into a house that had been aban­doned – the place was knee deep in rub­bish and fae­ces and the dog, a staffy cross,

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