Saturday, 12 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I can honestly say this week has been tough going. Driving home on Thursday marked the end of possibly the worst day in a long week. I had one of the Deputy Shop Managers with me and both of us were close to tears.

Steph had had a day of people blatantly taking the 'mick'. Shoplifter after shoplifter, and customer after customer asking for money off the ridiculously cheap shop prices. It gets you down that people will steal from, and barter with, a charity shop but that really is how it is. So, understandably she was upset and frustrated.

Few people understand quite how hard charity shop staff work to 'process' donations and raise the money they do for the charities they represent, and in our case, because everyone knows every penny counts they take it personally when someone behaves despicably.

For me, I had had a day of abuse, no actually a whole week of it, and all because we cannot meet peoples' expectations and say 'no' to them. On many occasions my inability to help resulted in me being called (amongst other things) 'racist', 'dirty bitch', 'useless', 'shit', 'whore' get the picture. But two calls in particular have remained with me; one a gentleman who wanted us to collect his dog and have it put to sleep, the other I refused to rehome animal to.

Amongst the things our branch is able to do is to help people financially with things like euthanasia, but what we can't do is offer a taxi service to transport pets. The latter seens to cause no end of anger from callers and this week one of these calls has stuck with me.

I really wish that people better understood that we don't have unlimited resources. Crumbs, I would love nothing more than to help every animal in need but the reality is we can't. At our branch we have just one van, which is in constant use each and every day. But that in itself is not sufficient for all the jobs that need doing so staff use their own cars to run animals around, collect shop donations and run any other errands needed by the branch. Whilst we get recompensed for the petrol the branch cannot afford to help with vehicle running costs, but no-one minds, and they do it all out of sheer kindness.

I think what really upsets me is that each and everyone of us goes that extra mile every single day, and if we say 'no' it's not from being a jobsworth or being sheer bloody minded, it's because we really can't help. In fact, even the Chief Inspector said to me this week that she and her team know that if we have to say no to animal they know it is genuinely because we cannot help. That means a lot to me, because it is awful saying no but at least there is understanding and appreciation of the situation from internally.

Back to the call. I remain haunted by the image of a dog whose owner had left him for nearly 24 hours, unable to move and screaming in pain whenever he tried to move. The caller got very angry when I explained we could not collect his dog but that he was eligible to use the RSPCA vets. This just simply wasn't good enough for him and he hung up, but not before telling me what he thought of me. Had that caller stayed on the line longer I would have talked to him further about other assistance, as I did with a similar call on Monday where the owner had also rung for her dog to be collected but we reached an agreement and she got a lift to the nearest vets and we paid £80 to have her beloved dog euthanized.

I just hope that man took his dog to the vets and that dog isn't languishing somewhere in sufferable pain.

I see and hear so frequently so many people who are all too keen to pass off their responsibilities on to others; asking for help is very different and I have no problem with that. But the amount of times people are abusive and emotionally blackmailing on the phone is awful and this week it has really taken its toll. We simply cannot say yes to everything and I just wish people would have some understanding towards this fact and realise that they have to take responsibility for their actions.

The other call of the week that has resonated with me was one where I was accused of accusing the caller of animal cruelty because I refused to rehome an animal to her because she wanted to install a device in her garden to stop the animal roaming. I had never heard of this particular brand and asked the caller to explain. The upshot was that it was what the RSPCA calls an 'aversive' training device and something that we are deeply concerned about and do not condone. So this is what I told the caller and you can imagine pretty much how the call went from there.

Afterwards I researched more about this product and it did not do as she perceived it did and let out a vibration if the animal went too near the fencing, in fact the website was very evasive as to what it actually did but it certainly didn't emit a vibration to the collar around the animal's neck. From what I can tell about this particular style of product, it either lets out a 'high pitched noise' (inaudible to humans) but in some products it also gives out a further warning of a 'low static correction shock'.

Now some of you, perhaps this lady included, may not think a high pitched beep is all that harmful to an animal, but the truth is negative training techniques are neither kind nor have the long term desired effect of suitably training the animal. But, still troubled by this call, and the unpleasantness that ensued as a result of me saying 'no', I contacted our 'science' department for further guidance, and I'm so glad I did because it turns out that the Welsh Assembly has banned the use of this kind of fencing in Wales and has passed the Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (Wales) Regulations 2010. Apparently DEFRA is also looking into these products, and hopefully they will reach the same conclusion as the Welsh Assembly.

So, to all the people who have told me this week that either I or the RSPCA are 'shit', I apologise for causing you such anger. I really wish I could meet every one's expectations but sometimes it just isn't possible, or even desirable.

Happy Valentine's Day to your furries - aren't animals amazing.