What does it take to be a rescue volunteer?

Peter Norman comes into the RSPCA’s Stepney office every Wednesday, checks his emails and awaits his first adventure of the day.

Peter is unofficially retired. He worked in IT for 35 years, in software development and project management. These days he plays golf three days a week and is a church bell ringer. “The big bells that make a lot of noise and upset all the neighbours,” he says, smiling.

On Wednesdays the church bells stay silent, the golf clubs are in the buggy – Peter Norman is busy donning his blue Team Rescue cap and saving animals in need.

“I come in here in the morning and I have absolutely no idea what the day is going to bring, and to me that’s part of the attraction,” he said.

Stepping up to the plate

Peter started volunteering as a rescue driver for the RSPCA in September 2020. Covid had freed up some time for him. When he saw a request come through for more rescue drivers, he thought he would give it a go.

“It’s a bit of a tug on the heartstrings every time, having to give them back, especially the ones that really grab you,” said Peter.

“It’s interesting, I could be going north, I could be going south, I could be at the beach, I might just be taking some cats out of the holding rooms and taking them down to the Lonsdale shelter, I could be chasing chickens around someone’s back garden, catching a fox in Glenelg, trying to catch ducks in the parkland, or pulling lizards out of drains,” laughed Peter.

Fighting for those without a voice

I asked Peter about some of the challenges he’s faced since he started volunteering, understanding that his work is not for the faint-hearted.

“I think it’s interesting, because everyone from my background, we always think that the RSPCA is fantastic, they’re here to help and do things, but quite a few people out there don’t really like seeing the RSPCA turning up,” he said.

“There are more people than I realised who probably aren’t doing the right thing and are looking over their shoulders and hoping the RSPCA doesn’t interfere.”

Disney was left abandoned, tied to a hand-rail at a local park in Munno Para

Peter spoke more about the condition of some of the animals he comes across. He said sometimes it’s challenging, but you have to have a little bit of toughness in there so you don’t burst into tears every time you see an animal that’s been treated so badly it’s just skin and bones.

“We picked up a dog about a month ago around Parafield way that someone had just left tied to the railing,” he said.

A local resident had found the dog and taken him home to give him some food.

“It was a lovely dog but there was almost nothing to him, I could put my hands around his waist,” he said.

“That one did make the news.”

The curious case of the Glenelg fox

Peter has learnt to expect the unexpected – “When you think of Glenelg East you don’t typically think of foxes,” he joked.

Found lying on the grass of a backyard garden, Peter thought it looked more like a household pet than a wild animal.

“I think it probably lives on the Morphettville Racecourse,” he said.

Peter meets his match with an evasive chicken

“There was a chicken running around a retirement village in Fullarton a few months ago and we were trying to catch it and the chicken was being very clever,” he said.

“Eventually we cornered it and it had jumped on top of a wheelie bin, then it flew off the top and somehow the net was in the right place and it flew straight in.

“That was a good catch!” he said, with a laugh.

The real heroes are the rescue team

Peter couldn’t do what he does without the support of RSPCA South Australia’s rescue officers – “The real heroes are the actual rescuers and the rescue team themselves,” he explains.

“They get very little thanks for it but they’re all so positive about everything, they’re friendly and easy to get along with.”

Of course, there is always room for more volunteers to join the team.

“I would say if you’re thinking about it, just give it a try. With every animal you help save, you get a real sense of achievement.”

Can you spare time to help us save animals? It’s only with the support of kind-hearted volunteers that RSPCA South Australia can rescue so many abandoned, neglected, sick and surrendered animals each year. Help us help them – apply to volunteer now.

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