Behind the scenes: Working on the frontline during the Coronavirus crisis
You might have seen our vans still out and about on the roads during lockdown. As designated key workers, our officers are still rescuing animals in need every day, but it's not business as usual for our inspectors as day-to-day working has changed since the Coronavirus crisis began.
We asked Rachel Smith, who works in the Buckinghamshire area, what it's like working on the frontline during these unprecedented times.
Q. Tell us about yourself
A. I joined the RSPCA in 2010 and graduated as an inspector in Sept 2011. When I realised I wanted to be an inspector the RSPCA weren't recruiting for nearly three years, so I had to wait before I could finally apply. In that time, I had to learn to swim as there was a swim test involved in the application process, I also spent time volunteering for my local RSPCA branch in Derby.
Q. What's your experience been like working throughout the lockdown so far? How is it different from 'normal' life?
A. My role has changed massively! The majority of my day to day work is now offering support to vulnerable animal owners, which includes working with vets to arrange medications and then delivering the medication to the owners.
I have also been doing extensive work with the branches in my area, including collecting and delivering supplies to their teams of fosterers. I love my job and am very thankful that we have been recognised as key workers so we can still safeguard the animals that need us. However, it is scary going out and not knowing what you will be faced with, such as who is behind the door and are they sick, will someone cough/spit/threaten me today because I upset them when I am trying to safeguard their animals.
Q. Have you had any rescues in particular since lockdown started which stand?
A. There have been so many it's hard to name a few! The week before lockdown started I was involved in a large animal investigation which saw over 50 animals removed and placed into our care. I am so thankful that we got those animals 'out in time' as I dread to think if many of them would be alive and well today without our intervention.
The day we went into lockdown I was able to remove a cat from a property that had been left unattended for nearly two weeks.
Q. What has the support from the public been like while you're working through lockdown?
A. The public support has been amazing! It's so easy to let the negative stick out, and while I've certainly had a few confrontations during Covid-19, I want to remember the positive things that have come out of this. So many people engaged with me because I was the only person who checked that they were OK, and brought them the medication for their animals.
The way my colleagues have supported each other is great. The public have shown amazing support for us, from leaving us beautiful pictures and kind comments on social media to even going above and beyond to help an animal. I recently completed the 2.6 Challenge - doing 26 Crossfit obstacles while dressed in a dog onesie - and raised over £1,000. For people to still be donating during this time of hardship and uncertainty for many families is just wonderful and I can't thank them enough!
Q. What advice do you have for pet-owners during the lockdown?
A. Love your pets as you have always done and don't make any rash decisions regarding rehoming them or buying a new one. This time is very unsettling for them too. My cat walked around like a zombie cat for the first week as she never slept because we were at home all day, she wanted to be with us all the time. Now, she happily snoozes when I'm home and has settled down.
Our pets rely on us to care for them and make good decisions every day. If you decide that you need to rehome your animals for whatever reason, then contact a rescue centre. Many rescues are still working during lockdown and can help, but they need time and notice to find the right place for the animal before taking it in.
Thanks Rachel for taking the time to talk to us.
Despite the lockdown, our rescue teams are continuing on the frontline as designated key workers. Check out our latest Coronavirus updates where we provide information and advice. We've launched an coronavirus appeal to help us continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animals most in need through the crisis.