Giving up a career as a solicitor to work with an animal charity was the best decision Louise Seddon ever made.
Louise is an inspector with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), looking after the Falkirk and Stirling areas.
It’s a role that involves ensuring animals are being cared for properly and now, thanks to new legislation, inspectors for the charity can also prosecute those neglecting their pets.
Louise said: “This job can be really challenging and, of course, for an animal lover it can be upsetting when you see an animal suffering. But I love my job and feel I am making a difference.”
She got her first taste of working with an animal charity when she was a solicitor in Bristol. The firm she worked with handled cases from the RSPCA, prosecuting those that failed to care for their animals properly.
From that, Louise decided she wanted to be on the front line, helping animals and educating owners, and she joined the SSPCA in 2007.
The inspector’s role with the charity, which receives no government or lottery funding and relies entirely on public donations, is to follow up complaints and investigate suspected animal cruelty.
The inspectors are a specialist reporting agency and can submit reports directly to the procurator fiscal without involving the police.
The Animal Health and Welfare Scotland Act 2006 has given more powers to the charity and they can now remove animals from homes if they are not being looked after and prosecute those who allow animals to suffer.
Louise said: “A lot of people don’t realise the power that the SSPCA has now to remove animals not being cared for, or we believe are not to be cared for, and prosecute their owners.
“Under the new laws the charity has more powers and we are prosecuting more offenders than ever before.”
Last year the SSPCA received 184,000 calls from members of the public concerned about animal cruelty and the rescue and rehoming centres cared for 12,600 animals.
Some of the more shocking cases included a hamster found in Grangemouth with all its feet missing and last month three gerbils were found abandoned by a Carronshore road to die.
Louise continued: “Often we will get to a animal who is distressed and uncared for and the neighbours will say ‘yes, that dog was in a bad way for a long time’, but they didn’t report it to us.
“We know that we are only at the tip of the iceberg and there are many animals suffering but we can’t help them because no one has reported it.
“I have seen some truly heartbreaking cases in my years as an inspector.
“One case that sticks with me is a dog which was literally a bag of bones. He was tied up in the middle of the night outside a veterinary practice and left. When we got to him he was so weak he couldn’t even lift his head or chew food. Miraculously he recovered and is now rehomed with a family who care for him.
“It’s cases like that that make my job worthwhile.
“I find it most difficult when we can’t help the animal.
“Recently I was called out to a property after concerns about a dog chained up outside.
“The dog was being fed and watered but he was not getting attention or walks. We can’t take him because he is okay physically, but he is mentally suffering and I know the owners don’t really care for him. That is hard for me because I know I can’t do anything to help.”
Inspectors also educate owners and can give written warnings to anyone neglecting their animals and legal notices if a pet needs to receive specific care, such as veterinary attention.
Louise added: “Often the owners are not deliberately being cruel, they are just ignorant about how to properly care for an animal. They don’t realise a puppy needs injections and socialising with other dogs so we also provide an education for them.
“Unfortunately there is a link with the economy and animal neglect. People think they can afford to feed a dog but don’t factor in vet fees, so they just let the dog suffer.
“There is no excuse for that, there is help available if people cannot afford treatment, you should never just let the animal continue in pain and discomfort.
“If anyone sees any animal suffering I would hope they could call us and give us the chance tostop it. If we don’t know about it, we can’t help them.”