IT’S not even 9am but a long queue of callers are anxiously waiting for help.
At the RSPCA national call centre, the team are painstakingly taking down reports of horrific animal abuse, stomach-churning neglect and abandonment.
Fifteen callers are in the queue as 26 call handlers gently deal with a range of complaints – but time is of the essence to ensure no animal goes unassisted.
We joined them as part of our Cancel Out Cruelty campaign on the busiest – and hottest – day of the year at the call center on an estate outside Wath upon Dearne, South Yorkshire.
From 8am to 8pm the team logged calls from people reporting animals in distress including seal pups, snakes and horses.
In just one day, a total of 5,971 reports were made to the charity’s cruelty hotline with 842 incidents sent on to be evaluated by frontline rescuers.
The first call came in from builders outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich, London, who’d found an abandoned cat in a box by their skip, together with a bed and litter box.
Animal Rescue Officer Rodney Kenny said: “The poor cat had been dumped in the hospital car park on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.”
Of the calls that came flooding in, 24 per cent were sick and injured animals, 14 per cent were animals left unattended, and four per cent were cases of neglect.
Manager Paula Whiteside, 49, said: “We need to answer these calls and talk to people. Our current wait time is very good at two minutes and 10 seconds. We don’t want people hanging up.”
Nicola Murray, 47, has been working at the center for 15 years and has handled hundreds of distressing calls.
She said: “It can be very challenging at times, it can be difficult. But it is also satisfying because you know you are helping animals.
“The worst ones are the neglect cases. They stick with you more than anything else.
“One that sticks with me is a dog that attacked a child. The owner hit it with a hammer to stop it savaging his child, but he refused treatment for it.
“It was still alive but he wouldn’t let us treat it.”
It can be very challenging at times, it can be difficult. But it is also satisfying because you know you are helping animals
Nicola Murray, RSPCA worker
There are lighter moments though. One scared caller told Nicola that there was a snake in her child’s bedroom.
Nicola recalls: “She could hear hissing under a desk and she was too scared to go in and investigate.
“An inspector went round and it turned out it was a can of hairspray that had got stuck.”
The RSPCA receives more than 90,000 calls to its cruelty line every month, and its team of 330 inspectors investigates 6,000 cases of deliberate animal cruelty.
Summer is its busiest time, with roughly 134,000 calls a month from concerned members of the public.
At 10am, Susie O’Brien dealt with a call from a theater goer concerned by the treatment of animals at a show she’d been too, and immediately referred it to an inspector.
The 36-year-old worked in animal rescue in her home city of Philadelphia before moving to South Yorkshire to work for the RSPCA.
HELP US CANCEL OUT CRUELTY THIS SUMMER
THE SUN is joining forces with the RSPCA to stamp out cruelty against animals.
Every day this summer, the animal welfare charity expects to receive an extra 1,413 calls to its cruelty hotline – that’s three every minute.
Dermot Murphy, chief inspectorate officer at the RSPCA, said: “We are a nation of animal lovers and no one wants to think of an animal being cruelly treated, but sadly the reality is that every day animals are victims of deliberate cruelty and thankfully the RSPCA is there to help them.”
The RSPCA is the only charity rescuing animals and investigating cruelty.
Their frontline rescue teams need YOUR support so they can help reach and care for animals in need.
Just £6 can help feed a dog in the charity’s care for a day, while £10 could pay for bandages for a cat or dog.
You can help by donating at www.rspca.org.uk/crueltystop.
She said: “It can be a tough job. There was one woman in Hull who had abandoned her dog in her flat.
“I got a call from her landlord who had found the animal. I took all the details and passed it on to an officer as an emergency incident and they found her.
“The owner was banned from owning dogs for life. It was pretty horrific.”
“I am passionate about animal welfare so the job can be quite challenging. I try not to take it home but sometimes I do.
I am passionate about animal welfare so the job can be quite challenging. I try not to take it home but sometimes I do
“If it is something upsetting it will sit with me. But we can follow the cases and see the outcomes which helps a lot.”
The Sun is backing the charity’s summer Cancel out Cruelty campaign to raise much needed funds to keep the service going.
Jill Smith, specialist manager at the charity’s National Control Centre, said: “Every day is busy at the RSPCA as we receive more than a million calls a year.
“But summer is our peak time, and this recent heatwave has put extra pressure on our call takers and support staff, frontline rescuers, vets and centers and branches who care for the animal victims of neglect and cruelty.
“This year we are bracing ourselves for a summer of suffering with an increase in pet ownership during the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.”
Mrs O’Brien added: “This is a wonderful charity and I would urge Sun readers to get behind it.”
Key calls on the charity’s busiest day
A stray cat is found trapped in a dyke in Skegness, Lincs. Inspector Andrew Bostock managed to rescue the cat but his injuries were so severe he had to be put to sleep.
Inspector Simon Hoggett rescues a fox that had become entangled with rubbish bags in a garden in Uxbridge, London.
A baby rabbit with injuries after being attacked by a cat in Terrington, Norfolk, was rescued and taken to the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre.
A dog left abandoned in a filthy garden in Liverpool with no food, water or shelter on the hottest day on record was rescued and will be rehomed.
Inspector Herchy Boal is sent to reports of a horse in Leicester which has been tethered on land with no food and water in the blazing hot sun.
Two neglected dogs found dumped at the side of a remote road in Cheshire are rescued and taken to the vets. An investigation has started.
Inspector Rosie Russon, based in Kent, rescues a stray Jack Russell Terrier with sarcoptic mange and an injured leg. She goes on to help a fox which has fallen 15ft from a wall in Rochester, Kent.
Animal Rescue Officer Paige Burnham rescues two abandoned rabbits with injuries to their ears that were found in a cardboard box under a hedge in Attleborough near Norfolk.
Staff at RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Center in Cheshire hand over five Bengal tabby kittens and their mum to new owners. Two kittens remain to be rehomed.
Inspector Rosie Wren rescues a fox cub trapped in a canal in Bethnal Green, London.
A seal pup suffering from heat exhaustion was rescued from Blakeney, Norfolk and taken to East Winch Wildlife Centre. Staff brought down his temperature from 41.6 degrees by placing him on wet towels and putting ice blocks on his flippers. Staff have named him Banana Split.