'We're a kind of spokesperson for the animals who have no voice' - A day in the life of a Sunderland RSPCA officer

From saving birds tangled in netting to rescuing homeless dogs, we look into how a Sunderland RSPCA officer helps animals across the region.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 11:35 am
Sweetcorn the rabbit was rescued by Heather after suffering an injury to its eye. Alongside Sweetcorn is one of 45 guinea pigs taken in by the RSPCA.

Heather Wade is one of two rescue officers across the North East who works alongside 11 inspectors and one chief inspector for the RSPCA

After studying Zoology at University of Aberdeen and then completing her Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at University of Edinburgh Napier, Heather has been a rescue officer for the last three years.

The ‘borderless’ job ranges each day, with different animals in locations spread across the region which can include rescues as far as Berwick and Middlesborough.

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Extensive equipment is needed for helping a range of animals.

Heather, 38, said: “I will be given a job to head out to when I start my shift and this could be anywhere across the North East, so I never really know what to expect when I start work because it could literally be anything.

"It can be difficult sometimes because there are only two rescue officers including myself and we don’t have a blue light unfortunately so we have to attend the most serious calls first, meaning other animals in need might have to wait a little longer.”

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The officer carries all types of equipment for rescues that can differ depending on which animal is in need – Heather has dealt with many types of birds including swans and gulls as well as dogs, cats and rabbits and even a foreign frog.

The North East has huge problems with birds getting tangled in netting.

She said: “The most random call I’ve ever attended was a woman who had accidentally brought a frog home in her suitcase from Disneyland in America.

"Exotic creatures can be difficult to deal with as sometimes you might not know whether it’s poisonous or whether it bites – You don’t come across them very often and I don’t think anybody knows each and every exotic animal.”

Heather explained that her role can sometimes be emotional with some animals needing to be put to sleep and many rescues involve distressing situations where animals are in pain.

She added: “I really enjoy my job but sometimes seeing animals being put to sleep or in a great deal of pain can take its toll but you learn to switch off and just cry about it when you get home.

Heather Wade has been an RSPCA officer for three years.

"We care about animals more than anybody, that’s why we do this job – each animal has a little life and we’re a type of spokesperson for these animals that have no voice.”

Heather explained a huge problem in the North East, particularly around Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields is with netting.

She said: “A lot of rescues at the moment involve saving birds from netting above buildings, these birds will die of starvation and dehydration which would be an awful death.

"We get some abuse from people for saving birds because people think it’s a waste of time but that’s still a life that I have a responsibility of saving.”

The RSPCA charity rely on branches across the country to take in injured and wild animals while also counting on RSPCA charity shops and donations for funding.

Heather said: “We couldn’t do this without these branches who take on rescued animals, pay for their veterinary bills, nurse them back to health and then re-home them.

"We never want to over exhaust these branches because sometimes they just don’t have capacity and there are always too many animals and not enough space and funding– it’s like a vicious cycle.”

Heather says all RSCPA officers are working “to do the right thing” and encourages everyone to look after their pets.

She said: “I have a responsibility to care for animals so if everyone did their own bit and took responsibility to look after their own pet then there would be less animals to rescue.”

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