No such thing as an average day at our 24-hour call centre

Here at the RSPCA we love animals. That’s why we get up every morning – to protect, defend and care for the animals who need us most.

In 2016, we investigated a whopping 149,604 complaints of alleged cruelty.

Our inspectorate, animal welfare officers and vets all do their best every day to help animals. But they wouldn’t achieve the same scale of success without our emergency call centre.

Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 220 members of staff working in shifts and answering around 3,000 calls a day to ensure that animals in trouble receive the help they need.

Take a look at the variety of reports our call handlers have helped with over the past year, with the help of knowledge analyst Josh Foster.

Cruelty and neglect

Leo the cat © RSPCA

“On April 24 we received a call from a concerned member of public about a pet cat in Northumberland who was very skinny, covered in lice and seen staggering around the local area. The poor boy had collapsed in the middle of the road.”

The cat was taken to vets, who found that he was anaemic and very underweight with a terrible case of fleas. He required treatment, observation and care for over four weeks. Inspector Helen Bestwick took up the case:

“With the assistance of the police, the cat – now named Leo – was signed over into our care. The case went to court under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the owner was banned from keeping cats for 18 months.”

Josh went on to say:

“Anaemia can be fatal to cats, plus Leo had passed out on a road, so it’s a huge relief that Helen arrived when she did. We are very happy to say that Leo is finally on his way to finding a loving new home.”

Emergency call-outs

Peanut after recovery © RSPCA

On September 24 at 6:50am, a call came in about a dog that was collapsed in shrubbery near a lay-by in Essex, who looked to be incredibly skinny and frail, and was unable to move.

“We immediately sent out animal collection officer Rebecca Yarrow who was able to rescue the poor pup and take her straight to a nearby veterinary practice for emergency treatment and round-the-clock care.

“The appeal for information about who let her get in such a terrible state appeared in national press and although the perpetrator was never found, thanks to the vets and care assistants who treated and rehabilitated her, she made a full recovery.”

Fake snakes

Thankfully not all calls are so serious – as call handler Nicola Murray can confirm:

“On 28 September at 10:40am we received a call from a woman concerned that there was a snake in one of her cupboards. She had no idea how it could have got in there but was too scared to go back into her house. When the inspector attended she found a can of hairspray, hissing from inside the drawer!

“It would never cross your mind to think the ‘snake’ would actually turn out to be a can of hairspray! The caller was adamant she would not go back in and check the drawer, and it certainly gave us all a laugh when I checked the incident Saturday morning and saw the outcome!”

And other calls are also of an exotic nature – but not quite in the way you’d think…

Spice gulls

Orange sea gull © RSPCA

Call handler Tracy Leslie was shocked on 2 August – when she received a call saying that a gull had fallen into a vat of curry in Cardiff.

“I remained professional and asked the caller if the liquid the bird had fallen into was hot. They responded by saying it was mild to medium!

“I politely explained that I had meant in terms of temperature – and was asking whether the bird was harmed! Luckily it wasn’t.

“I’ve since seen pictures and was amazed at the size and lovely tan/orange colour of the bird.”

Thankfully the gull is back to a normal colour and has been released back into the wild.

No average day

So as you can see – there’s no such thing as an average day for our call handlers. Some calls can be silly false alarms but some can be the beginning of very serious cases of cruelty and neglect.

Operatives have to think quickly to direct the right person to the scene – but often it’s their job to give the same piece of advice to well-intentioned members of the public: please see your local vet!

Josh estimates that over the past year, the call centre has advised over 50,000 people to take animals to the nearest vet if they’re dealing with poorly strays, or injured small wildlife such as hedgehogs or birds. This saves our inspectors and animal welfare officers a huge amount of time, which they can then use to investigate more serious cases of cruelty and neglect.

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