SPCA New Zealand

Saving special animals - the life of an SPCA inspector

05 June 2019
Saving special animals - the life of an SPCA inspector

The life of an SPCA Inspector

Saving special animals

Our SPCA inspectors play a crucial role in SPCA, responding to reports of animal abuse and neglect, as well as having the legal power to rescue, rehome animals and prosecute animal offenders under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

From seeing horrendous abuse cases to making a difference to the lives of animals, Sam Cairns shares the highs and lows of being an SPCA Inspector.

Taking the wins

Every day as an SPCA inspector is new and interesting but can also be tough and challenging.

Whether Sam is getting out and about in the community responding to animal welfare complaints, helping animals who are subject to horrific abuse, or at her desk managing paperwork and prosecutions, she never knows what each day is going to bring.

“My day could include responding to cases of dog beatings, skinny horses, or a small kitten in a shoebox. Every day is different,” she says.

“People think we just play with kittens and puppies, but that’s not the case.”

For Sam seeing animals in such a vulnerable state can be difficult. But making a difference for these animals in desperate need means the world to her.

“Being able to rehome animals and seeing their quality of life has improved – that’s what makes it worth it,” she says.

The animals that make an impact

One of the toughest jobs Sam has attended is George – a horrible abused Staffordshire bull terrier.

In a shocking case of violent abuse, George was beaten regularly by his owner over a period of eight months - a terrible ordeal.

Sam was his helping hand, removing him from a life of abuse and giving him the first glimpses of love and care he so desperately needed.

“He was my first big case. It was a massive investigation but we got there in the end,” she says.

George not only made a huge impact on Sam personally, but his case set a legal precedent for SPCA, as there was no physical evidence such as photo or video proof, and relying completely on eye-witness accounts.

Memories of George will never leave Sam as he was such a special animal to her.

After spending almost two years waiting for his own forever family, George became their centre’s very own “office dog”.

“He was with us at the centre for so long, he was in our office two days a week. He became part of the team,” she says.

Sam was with George through every step of his journey to recovery, and to see him relishing his new life with a wonderful family brings Sam so much joy.

“He’s not the perfect dog and has things that he needs to work on, but we are so proud of him.”

“He now lives just around the corner from two of our other Inspectors, they see him out and about and he looks so happy.”

Kera was also a very special dog for Sam.

“I visited Kera several times after a call of concern that she was lame. On the first three visits Kera was outside and was visibly lame. However, she was so frightened I couldn’t get near her to touch her or take her," Sam explains.

“Finally I was able to bring her back to SPCA. On veterinary examination we found that Kera had an old dislocated shoulder that had healed incorrectly causing her lameness. We also found several gun pellets throughout her body,” she adds.

“In our care, Kera slowly started to gain confidence, she spent a lot of time in my office just being near us. Eventually Kera turned into a bouncy happy friendly dog that loved attention, it was amazing to see.

“I recall the first time Kera started to play with a toy in our office. She’d never had toys to play with before, then one day she picked up a ducky and started to play.”

Kera has been adopted into a wonderful family - another happy ending that Sam is so grateful to be a part of.

“We’ve had so many special animals. Being there for them and changing their lives for the better is so rewarding.”

Highs and lows

While Sam has to deal with so many difficult cases, she still finds it easier to work with animals than humans.

“People are really challenging. Dealing with animals is the easy part. People can be hostile and it is important we keep ourselves safe and navigate through these situations carefully,” she says.

As Sam gets busier responding to more animal welfare complaints, she notices the cases she deals with are becoming nastier and intentionally cruel.

As article was being written, she is appealing to the public after Brighton the kitten was taped inside a shoebox and thrown from a car, as well as dealing with multiple abuse prosecutions that she will present to the court.

What's next?

While Sam prepares multiple prosecutions and responds to new animal welfare complaints every day, she also wants to start working with community to help prevent these cases from ever happening.

In 2017, SPCA Inspectors investigated over 15,500 incidents relating to animal cruelty alone - a number that Sam wants to see diminish.

“I’d love to get to the point where we can do more proactive work, like educating our communities.”

For now, she will continue to change the lives of animals, trying to make New Zealand a place where animals like George and Kera never knew unhappiness.

SPCA is the only charity with the legal powers to help animals in need and bring animal offenders to justice. Our Inspectors are appointed under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 which provides powers to investigate cruelty, abuse, neglect and abandonment.

To find out more, visit: https://www.spca.nz/what-we-do/seek-justice

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