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 Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector of animal welfare for The ISPCA, with some of the horses being monitored by the ISPCA in Carrigtwohill. Picture: David Keane.
Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector of animal welfare for The ISPCA, with some of the horses being monitored by the ISPCA in Carrigtwohill. Picture: David Keane.
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Caring for the animals who don’t have a voice

LISA O’DONOVAN used to work as a veterinary nurse where she was constantly in contact with people who cared properly for their animals.

Now she’s an animal welfare officer, a job that exposes her to a world of cruelty.

She chose to pursue that path after meeting Timmy, a three-legged dog, she now calls her own.

“For years I worked as a veterinary nurse so I spent my time dealing with people who loved their animals; people would actually would go to the ends of the earth for their animals and then you stop and say: ‘These are good people, but what about the poor old dog who has a broken leg that no-one has dealt with?’

“That was the case with Timmy — he had a broken leg; We got the call 12 months later and by then his leg was deformed.

“That what I wanted to try to get into — to make a difference for the animals that I suppose you could say don’t have a voice.”

Lisa is a now senior inspector for ISPCA Cork.

She investigates animal cruelty cases and says that unfortunately, cruelty is so prevalent in Cork that she is always busy.

Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector of animal welfare for The ISPCA, with some of the horses being monitored by the ISPCA in Carrigtwohill. Picture: David Keane.
Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector of animal welfare for The ISPCA, with some of the horses being monitored by the ISPCA in Carrigtwohill.
Picture: David Keane.
She said that dealing with cruelty cases is not straightforward and that the public has a misconception about the powers of the ISPCA. “They think we can just knock on someone’s door, disapprove of the way they are treating their animal and take it away.

“That’s not the way it works, it’s not as simple as that.

“They have to be compromising the animal’s welfare.

“If they are compromising the animal’s welfare you have to be seen to be reasonable in how you deal with it. That usually means you have to open up a dialogue, find out what’s the background, what are the circumstances and who is responsible for the animal.

“You have to try and work with them.”

That involves trying to improve the way the animal is treated or cared for in terms of its living conditions, accommodation and care.

“If it’s injured, have they sought veterinary attention for it? If they haven’t, why haven’t they?”

“A lot of the time we try and get them to surrender over the animals, sign the paperwork and agree to it being taken away.”

If taken away, an animal is seen by a vet and brought to a private boarding or care facility.

Lisa is always busy in her job. “I’m always in arrears with calls because Cork is a busy area. Ninety-five per cent of the work we deal with are new calls coming in to our helpline — so it might be concerns about horses, about dogs, cats.”

At this time of the year calls are predominantly relating to cases involving dogs; in winter it’s predominantly horses.

“When the growing season stops, food is rationed, animals that are strong now will survive the winter; if we see animals that are weak now chances are they’re going to be very vulnerable and intervention might be needed.”

Part of her job involves regular checks and she often visits a field in Carrigtwohill, where there are between 25 and 40 horses.

“We’ve had a lot of bad experiences here, a lot of animals in trouble, a lot of animals sick and a lot of deaths, unfortunately.”

After difficult part of the job is the many nuisance calls she deals with which waste time and resources.

“There would be quite a substantial number of calls that you would arrive at the door and find there’s absolutely no welfare concern.

“They may have had a falling out with a neighbour or an estranged partner or with a family member — you arrive at the door and they’ll tell you they were expecting you because they’ve already had a call from the guards and the dog wardens. It’s real vindictiveness.

“We’re talking about animal welfare and about the possibility of an animal being at risk if you get delayed and by the time you get there you couldn’t save it because you were dealing with nuisance calls.”

As a former veterinary nurse and now an inspector with the ISPCA, Lisa O’Donovan has seen people who love animals but also those who have made them suffer. She speaks to Liz O’Brien about her work