Pet rescue: A day in the life of SPCA inspectors

Durban - When I joined the Durban and Coast SPCA on their rounds on a typical Thursday - we were scheduled to attend to eight cases - this I was told, was a quiet day.

As someone who has never owned a pet (apart from a goldfish in primary school) this perplexed me. Could there really be such a high demand for the services offered by the organisation?

The Durban and Coast SPCA has eight active inspectors who attend to an average of 11 calls per day.

On this humid overcast Thursday morning, I tag along with inspector Nishal Ramsamy and inspectorate manager Candice Sadayan. Both inspectors have more than two decades of experience between them.

READ: ConCourt recognises NSPCA’s powers to prosecute

Visiting Crow

Our first stop is the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (Crow), located south of Durban. Crow and the SPCA, both of whom work for the welfare of animals and the preservation of their habitat, have a long-standing relationship.

At Crow we meet with a number of the organisation's officials for an inspection of the various holding areas for the wildlife that Crow helps rehabilitate. The amount of work put in by volunteers becomes apparent during these interactions.

Sadayan asks tough questions and gives tips about the maintenance of some of the enclosures that house animals including monkeys, birds, a tortoise, duiker and even some geese.

What I expected to be a day of playing with puppies had immediately turned into something quite different.

Two kittens have been rescued by SPCA officials. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

The little stops

Our next stop is a pre-home visit not far from Crow. It appears no-one is home when we drive up and Sadayan takes a closer look to confirm it.

We then travel to the Bluff, an area where it seems many of the residents keep pets. We are following up on a complaint about a crying puppy.

Sadayan and Ramsamy are met by a young school going girl who tells us her parents are not home. Sadayan quickly assesses the condition of the dog and within seconds ascertains that it is flea-infested and has hurt its paw.

Ramsamy and Sadayan tell the girl her parents need to contact the SPCA and they make a note to return to the home.

We then visit a pet shop in a busy mall where the two are seemingly well-known. A fish tank at the store raises their concern and Ramsamy informs the owner it needs a new filtration system.  

Midday is quickly approaching when we visit a retired couple who live with 13 dogs in their small home. While the husband is friendly, his wife is defensive.

Ramsamy and Sadayan inspect the crowded home and advise the owners they need to take measures to ensure better living conditions for the pets.

READ: NSPCA staff attacked in Gauteng while trying to save chickens

Croton Road

After a few more minor stops in the Bluff area we make our way to Croton Road in Wentworth. This visit turns out to be the busiest part of our day.

While driving around we are stopped on several occasions by locals who tell us about incidents involving the mistreatment of pets. We even hear of a dog-fighting ring run by young boys for entertainment.

Still on Croton Road, we get to our official stop and are greeted at the home by children and an elderly lady. When she takes us to the back of her yard, we are confronted by the sad, terrible reality that many pets endure.

There is a dog tied up with a chain around its neck. Her neck is raw from the tension.

"This dog is always jumping on people and causing problems. That is why I tied it up."

The dog has two small puppies that show signs of malnourishment and they are teeming with ticks and fleas. Sadayan immediately tells the woman she will be taking the restrained dog as well as one of the puppies.

Children on the street tell us the woman has a habit of keeping pets and mistreating them.

"She is keeping so many. We are happy you are here to take them away. She just ties them and leaves them. We feel bad for the puppies."

'Inside is for humans, outside is for dogs'

We head back to the Bluff to attend to another case following our lengthy stay on Croton Road.

In this case too, the dog, which we are told constantly jumps over the fence when not on a leash, is kept tied up. The owner tells us he is planning on making adjustments to the gate the dog scales.

When we see the dog Sadayan immediately points out that it needs a running leash.

"This is too short. You will need to immediately rectify this," she says.

The owner says he does not have another leash and does not have money to buy one immediately. When asked if the dog could stay inside for the night, he replies: "Sorry, that is not going to happen at all. The house is for humans, dogs stay outside."

Sadayan loans him a leash.

Time to save some cats

We rush off to Clairwood, one of Durban's busiest industrial areas where a cat is apparently in need of rescue.

We get to the factory and are told by the person who called us that a cat has given birth to kittens in a pile of pallets.

Ramsamy immediately jumps into action. He tells us that if he attempts to rescue the kittens, the mother will flee.

As he climbs up to attempt the rescue, true to his prediction, the mother immediately flees leaving behind the two freshly-born kittens.

The woman who called the inspectors in insists on nursing the kittens which would otherwise have to be put down because they are too young to be cared for without their mother.

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A day more tiring than expected

I look at my watch as we leave the factory - somehow it is almost 16:00, the day has flown by and is almost done, yet Sadayan and Ramsamy appear ready to tackle more.

On our return to the SPCA, the inspectors still have work to do, completing paperwork and safely securing the dogs they have taken.

While I appreciate their dedication and professionalism in the service of animals, I certainly do not envy them.

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