It is a job that can never be described as easy. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its rewards.
It takes a unique set of skills to be an animal cruelty investigator for the BC SPCA, to work on the frontlines to investigate and fight animal cruelty on a daily basis – yet that’s exactly what the society’s 30 full-time Special Provincial Constables do.
“You see a lot of things that you can’t unsee – you can’t erase those images from your mind,” says BC SPCA senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever, who has worked with the BC SPCA for 36 years.
“You think you’ve seen it all until the next call comes… it can take a toll, but as a team, we look after each other. We’re professional in the field but when the job is done, we share the grief.”
While the job of a cruelty investigator often involves rescuing animals from all kinds of abuse, including neglect, abandonment, substandard living conditions, puppy or kitten mills, physical abuse, hoarding situations and more, it also involves educating pet guardians and building relationships with animal owners.
“Sometimes, people are honestly unaware that their behaviour or neglect of an animal constitutes abuse, and in these cases, we work with the animal owner to educate them about the Five Freedoms and the obligation they have to provide their pet with basic necessities,” Drever says.
“Other times, we have to use our authority under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to enforce laws relating to animal cruelty.”
In the Okanagan, Interior and northern parts of the province, being a Special Provincial Constable also means driving for several hours a day to attend calls or deal with cases. Cruelty investigators often liaise with other agencies, including the RCMP and municipal police departments, as cruelty investigations will often expose other, overlapping problems that are cross-reported, such as domestic abuse, elder or child abuse, metal health issues, hoarding and more.
“You have to have a thick shell – I think what keeps us going is that we have a job to do,” Drever says. “We have a fabulous team. I admire their tenacity and their strength. They’re an incredible group of people and I am lucky to work with them all.”
While the job can be difficult, it can also be extremely rewarding, she notes, especially when an animal who was abused or neglected is adopted into a loving home and blossoms into a happy, confident and healthy animal.
“The good days are when the animals we’ve rescued find their forever homes with loving families,” Drever says.
“To see them survive something so horrific and recover, and still want the love and affection of humans is amazing to me. Animals give us such unconditional love and I feel very fortunate to do the job I do. I can’t see myself ever doing anything else.”