Adelaide’s toughest job: A day in the life of an RSPCA inspector

June 04, 2020

This piece was written by our Chief Inspector, Andrea Lewis.

RSPCA inspectors and rescue officers are at the frontline of animal welfare. We see neglect and abuse far too often.

As RSPCA South Australia’s Chief Inspector, my job can be incredibly rewarding. But on days like this, it can feel like we have Adelaide’s toughest job.


A phone call from the emergency vet: a cat seized by an Inspector yesterday. It hasn’t eaten for 5 days. It’s emaciated, very dehydrated, and is having trouble breathing. It needs blood tests and x-rays, oxygen therapy, chest drains, and a drip to combat dehydration. Its chances aren’t good…

Adelaide's Toughest Job RSPCA


Another phone call: a truck transporting chickens has been involved in a roll-over accident, and some of them are injured or deceased. I instruct our Rescue team to provide as much support as we can to SAPOL who attend the scene.

Most of the team are on their way out to attend a property where over 100 animals are living in squalid filth, with no food or water or care. They are starving to death and urgently need our help.

Adelaide's Toughest Job RSPCA

I head to my first call of the day: a visit to the circus to inspect the animals. The circus folk justify and advocate for their animals. I know they love them and take great pride in them, but it isn’t the proper life for a monkey or lion. I must put my personal views and our policies aside, and focus on the law, which is to ensure their treatment and living conditions are adequate.


We’re on skeleton staff and the cruelty reports keep coming in. Everyone else is at the big job with over 100 animals. The team are all having “one of those days”.


I attended a call to pick up a stray rabbit on my way to the office. He’s beautiful, cute and furry – my favourite! Off to the shelter with you fur ball. I hope you find a great home.


The horse bones found north of Adelaide are still haunting me. The EPA is investigating. Twelve beautiful creatures – I hope they didn’t suffer. Everyone wants to know – who could do that? Only lunch time, there’s more to come.


Deep breath: Cranky phone calls to deal with – unwarranted criticism and abuse. People saying “you didn’t ring me”… “what right do you have”… “why don’t you…”. It takes a lot of my patience and people skills to get through these calls.


Receive a call from Inspector working in Eyre Peninsula: a dog with a serious leg fracture. The owner has abandoned him. He’s a Kelpie, and the vet says he needs surgery or euthanasia. I approve the surgery.

Adelaide's Toughest Job


The team have had a tough day: we have seized and rescued over 120 animals. The next challenge is finding accommodation for them at the shelter.

The afternoon shift arrives: sorry guys, no time to sit down we have urgent calls to respond to in Hackham, Morphett Vale, Marion, Flinders Park and Elizabeth.

I make ten phone calls on the way to resolve reports received overnight. A dog left on its own for three days. More dogs fighting in a back yard – one needs a vet. A bull needs help out north – can’t find the owner – get a vet – it doesn’t look good – what do we do? Your choice – choose now!


Receive update on the animals seized from the big job earlier: they are all emaciated and lice ridden – more work for our veterinarians and shelter staff.

More calls. Kittens need rescuing… again. In a drain… again.


Dogs seized yesterday: They were emaciated and abandoned but the owner is ringing non-stop. We have spoken to them three times and they are still ringing. I decide to notify shelter to increase security.

Adelaide's Toughest Job


Hospital staff call the rescue hotline: three people are in hospital with animals at home. They haven’t been fed or checked-on since Monday. There is no one else to care for them. Eight animals need our help, but the shelter is full – how can we make room for them?


Now there is a cat that needs to be rescued: it’s been hit by a car, no microchip, not desexed – another Animal Ambulance call-out.


The day is almost over, but wait – another call: a dog is dying of neglect in a country area, but we have no Inspectors near there today. I make a frenzied ring around to get assistance from local authorities – I hope someone can get there before it’s too late!

I’ve been doing this job for 15 years now. I’m so proud of the work that we do but when you have a bad day in this job, you have a really bad day.

There is too much cruelty and neglect. We are receiving more cruelty reports than ever. It needs to stop, and we will do everything in our power to stop it.

RSPCA is the only South Australian charity with legal power to investigate animal cruelty – but inspectors rely on the public to be their eyes and ears. That’s why RSPCA has launched its Combat Cruelty campaign, which asks South Australians to take the pledge to combat cruelty.

*This piece was originally written in 2015.*

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5 thoughts on “Adelaide’s toughest job: A day in the life of an RSPCA inspector”

  1. Susan Cole

    Thank you for the vital work you do. As animal lovers we rely on you to do what we can’t

  2. dallas stephensen

    You do a wonderful job but i wish the government would step up and help more. But then animals have never been a priority to our government. What a great pity.They give such a very small amount and it is so sad.

  3. Gill Foster

    It really makes me so heartbroken to hear of all the cruelty to any creatures! Animals don’t kill or be cruel just for fun the only time an animal kills is to survive. Humans ( not all) on the otherhand don’t CARE!!!

  4. Naomi Sayers

    What an amazing job you guys do, thank God for people like yourselves that put their emotions on the line every day to help those animals in need, well done

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