Olive and Lexi’s stories: showing that cruelty prevention is multifaceted
When you think of SPCA, you likely recognise us for SPCA’s work in the courtroom, holding owners accountable for their actions through prosecutions and by issuing fines. While these are important and necessary parts of our role, there are other ways to affect change.
As an animal welfare organisation, we want to show you how our work is so much more profound and multi-faceted than that.
Tasked with preventing cruelty to animals, there is no one size fits all approach, and no box our team can quickly tick to get the best outcomes for animals and their owners. Our Inspectors have the difficult and tireless work of managing a myriad of delicate and often complex situations, navigating them carefully to get the right outcome for the animals we serve. And sometimes, prosecution isn’t always the right avenue to help the animals.
SPCA's success isn’t measured in the number of prosecutions we’ve processed through the courts, nor the number of fines we’ve issued. It’s measured in the number of animals’ lives we’ve been able to touch, to transform, and change for the better. It’s measured in the number of owners we’ve been able to help, to work with and educate, and achieve long term behavioural change that prevents cruelty and reoffending.
Every case is nuanced but one thing is always certain: the animal’s welfare is, and always has been, SPCA’s priority.
For Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Month, we want to show you how outcomes other than prosecution can be entirely appropriate, and introduce you to two animals, who through the result of our Inspectorates collaborative and educative approach with their owners, have a better future ahead of them.
Earlier this year, SPCA received a call for help about one of the less common animals we work with – a bearded dragon named Olive*.
Bearded dragons are unique animals that need special care to thrive. Despite Olive being a much-loved companion for all of her life, concerned flatmates noticed that the once high level of care afforded to her by the owner had declined recently. The owner was going through difficult times, and the flatmates were worried that Olive wasn’t getting the level of care she needed.
SPCA responded to their call for help, with Inspectorate Team Leader Ben promptly attending and assessing Olive. A quick glance determined that this reptile wasn’t in the best health and she needed some tender love and care with SPCA’s veterinary team.
Not every case is black and white and Olive’s story is just one of many complex situations that our Inspectors have to steer through to help animals like her. The individual who had first contacted SPCA was both concerned for Olive, and for her owner who was going through some difficult times.
Inspector Ben knew that getting Olive healthy was the priority, but in order to prevent neglect and get the best outcome for Olive long term, he needed to help empower and equip her owner to be a better pet parent.
Working with them and educating them would be essential to achieving this.
A comprehensive plan was put in place. Olive went into SPCA’s care for further veterinary assessment, treatment, and emergency boarding while her owner had the opportunity to make arrangements for the betterment of Olive, and to focus on getting themselves better.
“It was really great to see the flatmates wanting to help. It was a bit of a delicate situation, but the owner was incredibly grateful for the help and everything has worked out for the best for Olive,” says Inspector Ben.
After two weeks in SPCA’s care, and with an amended diet and lighting setup, Olive had gained 80 grams and was looking and feeling much better.
After careful consultation with her owner, Inspector Ben took Olive to someone who was experienced in caring for bearded dragons, and was able to provide temporary care for Olive until the owner was ready to take her back again.
“We don’t see many bearded dragons at SPCA but it was amazing to see the staff put extra effort in to make sure she got the care she needed, and we received a lot of support and supplies from the reptile team at Wellington Zoo, and advice from Chris at Hot House Turtles,” Inspector Ben says.
“This was a great example of SPCA working with the community to achieve a great outcome for this animal.”
(*Olive's name has been changed for privacy reasons)
When SPCA Inspector Shanaea was first alerted to Lexi*, she was underweight and chained, with shelter that wasn’t up to scratch.
Taking Lexi into SPCA’s care was needed so she could be seen by a vet and to ensure her physical, health, and behavioural needs were looked after, and Inspector Shanaea immediately drove her to SPCA to get the care she needed.
To the public, taking an animal from their owner’s possession can be seen as a job done. But really, Lexi’s journey with SPCA, and our Inspectorate’s work with her owner, had only just begun.
Over the next few weeks, our veterinary and animal care teams looked after Lexi and got her back to a better condition – in no time she was happy, healthy and doing great.
With every animal we come across and every case we work on, our team works towards answering one question – what is the best available avenue to take that will help these animals and prevent cruelty going forward? After ongoing consultations with the owner, Inspector Shanaea knew this wasn’t a case of malicious and intentional neglect, but a case of gaps in knowledge and understanding that meant Lexi hadn’t got the right level of care she needed.
Her owner was eager and willing to make changes to improve Lexi’s welfare, and our team were willing to work with them, with Lexi’s future in mind, to make this possible. To prevent reoffending down the track against other animals, change minds and behaviours, and keep Lexi with her family, we knew this was the best outcome.
People are capable of change, and where we can, SPCA has faith that with the right guidance and support, together we can help facilitate that. At any time, if we have concerns that our approach isn’t achieving the results we want, and isn’t helping the animal in question, our team won’t hesitate to change our plan.
Inspector Shanaea worked closely with the owner, harnessing an educative approach to make positive change.
“I was able to have an education visit where we discussed the obligations that an owner has and the standards that have to be met. Lexis owner made changes at the property including fixing up her kennel to meet standards and installing a run wire so Lexi could have plenty of exercise in the yard,” Inspector Shanaea says.
Once Lexi was feeling better, and the owners had prepared their home to be accommodating for Lexi, she was returned to them. We don’t just walk away from animals; our Inspectors had made a commitment to Lexi and would revisit her to make sure she was happy and doing well.
The results spoke for themselves on Inspector Shanaea’s revisit.
“A recheck was done three weeks later where I saw a great improvement in her condition and overall living environment. It was great that we could work with and educate the owner in order to improve the welfare of Lexi, and we’re confident that there won’t be a repeat,” she says.
In this case the owner was issued with a written warning. This means that if they do come to the attention of SPCA again, we will take the history into account.
(*Lexi's name has been changed for privacy reasons)
Multiple tools in the kit
These are just two of many animals who have benefited from SPCA educating and engaging with owners in our community. There are times when this approach isn’t possible or appropriate, and where animal abusers need to be held accountable for their actions and animals removed from their care. In these situations, our Inspectorate won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to protect the animals and ensure compliance with the Act.
But where we can lead with empathy, compassion, education and guidance to achieve a positive change for animals and owners, we will. These stories are testament to that.
Regardless of the situation, regardless of the factors involved, when you support SPCA you ensure animals have a second chance at happiness. Thank you for making this a reality.