By Kim O’Leary
Animal welfare inspectors in Dublin now have to wear stab vests and bodycams on callouts to protect themselves from angry pet owners and other dangers.
Inspectors from the DSPCA have had to take the extra measures as they attend mistreated animals whose owners sometimes turn aggressive.
In recent incidents during the Covid-19 pandemic knives have been produced and officers have been spat at.
Gillian Bird from the DSPCA said that protection for inspectors is essential especially with a surge in call-outs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the Dublin Gazette this week, she said that the inspectors bgan wearing stab proof vests following “a few incidents” that led to an increase in personal safety equipment.
“The bodycams are used to gather evidence in some animal cruelty cases as they are tamper proof and are accepted in court. They are also used to film rescues and releases such as a swan release or hedgehog rescue. They are not used in day-to-day rescue cases unless the inspectors feel it is needed,” she explained.
Meanwhile the DSPCA is also asking people to call them to provide as much information about possible cases of cruelty and neglect, such as the correct address and location. Some of the challenges that officers face include pet owners not being at home at the time of their check-in.
The DSPCA, which marked its 180th anniversary in 2020, is dedicated to the promotion of animal welfare, and it rehabilitates and rehomes over 2,500 animals every year.
“A lot of the time nobody is there or nobody is willing to answer the door, so the officers would leave a calling card and come back the next day,” explained Gillian Bird.
“People in most situations are shocked when they see the inspectors or relieved because they may have been embarrassed to ask for help in the past. It’s only in the really rare situations where people would be on the defensive, a lot of the time it’s because they could be very embarrassed or can also be a situation where they’re genuinely an animal lover but just got into a mess,” she added.
Meanwhile the DSPCA has been given new powers in recent years to intervene sooner in possible cases of animal cruelty and neglect.
“One of the great things about the new legislation is the ‘notice of improvement’ which is less threatening, it’s a legal document advising owners to feed their pets more or bring them to the vet for a check. The new legislation is much better because we can step in and help animals earlier and it’s less confrontational between the owners and inspectors,” said Ms Bird.
In addition, the DSPCA are also now working closely with the homeless services at Merchant’s Quay in Dublin city centre, making sure their pets are happy and healthy and microchipping dogs.
If you wish to report animal cruelty or neglect call the DSPCA on 01 4994700 or email [email protected]