Volunteer and local writer David Hartley spends some time with Animal Welfare Co-ordinator Deborah Beats, talking Rolf Harris, chocolate, and how to cope with those difficult days at the office…

Catherine (left), Tom (centre), Deborah (right) with some typical new arrivals!

Q. What attracted you to the role? Why did you want to work for the RSPCA?

Like most of us I always wanted to work for the RSPCA as a child. I used to collect the RSPCA animal hospital toys and would always be glued to the screen when Rolf Harris came on, so when the opportunity came along to work at the Manchester and Salford branch it was like a dream come true.

Q. What is your favourite part of the job?

Obviously my favourite part of my job is when an animal gets re-homed, especially when it’s one that’s been overlooked for a few months or one that’s been so badly damaged by its previous owner that we were unsure if it ever could be re-homed. I think that there is no better feeling than sitting in the office on a Friday afternoon after being bombarded with calls from people needing help to suddenly get a call from someone who has been to the cattery and reserved one of our long stay cats.

Q. What do you consider is the biggest misunderstanding about working for the RSPCA?

I think most people misunderstand exactly what a member of staff at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch are actually capable of doing. The majority of calls we get are from people either asking us to go out and collect an animal which we cannot do, or asking for veterinary advice which we try our best to help with but none of us are veterinary trained. It’s very difficult to explain to someone who is in distress that we are not inspectors that can go out to properties, we don’t have an inexhaustible amount of space for unwanted pets and we don’t have a nice big bank balance that we can dip into anytime someone can’t afford their vet bills.

Q. You encounter a lot of tough challenges, often on a daily basis – everything from educating people about proper animal care, to difficult decisions at the vets. How do you cope with the pressure?

There are four things that keep me sane: Susie (my boss & branch manager), Catherine (my colleague), the animals, and chocolate. Some days just seem to be full of disappointment and frustration and we’ve all had our hearts broken over an animal that has had to be put to sleep or returned by an adopter. But a good moan or cry and a massive slice of chocolate cake generally gets you through the day. Without the support from each other I think we’d find the job a lot more difficult.

Q. The Manchester & Salford branch has a strong reputation for rabbits in particular, but you come from a more cat and dog background. How did you find the experience of having to wise up on all things bunny?

Luckily I had started to get a bit more rabbit savvy before working at the RSPCA through volunteering and taking various animal courses but it was still a rather daunting prospect attempting to measure up to the branch’s standards. In the past year I have learnt so much about rabbits and more importantly how to have a happy one and I still have A LOT to learn. It’s quite scary how little people know about these amazing furries and yet how extremely complex their needs are. I am really enjoying learning about their quirky ways and always look forward to Tuesday mornings when I go and health check the buns – I’m still very proud of myself when I manage to roll a giant lop over to check its teeth!

Q. The branch is advertising for a new Animal Welfare Assistant. What advice would you give to the lucky person who gets the job?

That’s a tough one, I think that the best piece of advice I could give is that when everything seems to be getting too much the most useful thing you can do is take a step back and put things in perspective. It’s amazing how stressed you can get knowing you’re running ten minutes late for the vets whilst having a howling cat sitting next to you. I think to do this job to the best of your ability you need to be able to stop and laugh at yourself from time to time.

If Debs has inspired you to work for our branch, a new position is currently being advertised. Closing date 26th of November!