On the road again … Steve Coleman.STEVE Coleman, the chief executive of the RSPCA in NSW, knows exactly what it is like to work on the front line of animal welfare.
Over the holiday period, he put on a uniform and hit the road as an inspector, responding to complaints of animal neglect and cruelty.
He knew exactly what to expect. Mr Coleman was an RSPCA inspector for 10 years of his career. Since his appointment to the top job in 2007, he has undertaken four stints back in the field, the only RSPCA chief executive in the country who does so.
This hands-on experience helps him to see how decisions ”play out on the ground,” he said.
There has been a significant strategy shift at RSPCA NSW. In 2009, the number of inspectors was capped at 32 for five years and funds traditionally used to increase sheltering capacity were diverted into community education programs.
”One of the really hard things we had to grapple with was that for decades all we’d done was increase sheltering capacity and increase inspector numbers. And, in effect, all that has done is make the RSPCA Band-aid bigger,” Mr Coleman said.
When he joined the society in 1991, animal seizures were more common.
”It was the quick fix. Just get the animal out of there. Get it to the shelter,” he says. Now, the organisation is increasingly focused on ”getting to the root of the problem”.
”It’s more about how we support the community to keep their animals fit and healthy, and with them.
”Most people want to do the right thing by their animals. They just need to understand how. They don’t need us whacking them with a big stick.” Mr Coleman said deliberate cruelty was ”not common, thankfully”.
Last year, RSPCA NSW responded to 12,761 animal cruelty complaints, laid 385 charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and initiated 98 prosecutions.
South-west Sydney has long been a complaints hot-spot and the organisation has been working hard, with visits from an education bus and community days that include free consultations with RSPCA vets. ”We are just starting to see the numbers of complaints in some of those areas plateauing,” Mr Coleman said.
During his week on the road, Mr Coleman seized one animal, drove 2000 kilometres and was thanked only once. ”That’s rare, but you don’t forget it.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.