WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO
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,