Giving Back, Lifestyle, Safindit Daily, Story of the Day|December 21, 2011 10:01 am

What’s it Like Working at the SPCA?

Take me home!

The Durban & Coast SPCA has been ‘speaking for animals’ for over 100 years. From humble beginnings in 1897, the branch has grown to a large and successful organisation operating from spotless, modern premises in Springfield Park. The day-to-day running of the organisation is undertaken by a highly qualified and dedicated team of veterinarians, inspectors, kennel staff, and admin staff, under the leadership of manager, Chris Matheson.

The SPCA is far more than an animal adoption society and a humanitarian agency which has taken on the painful duty of euthanasing unwanted animals. It plays a humanising role in society, educating people – especially children – about the rights of all living creatures, working for better legal protection for animals and harsher penalties for lawbreakers.

Organisations like the SPCA have limited facilities, and their education programme aims to teach children that they are the ears and eyes in the community and that they have an important role to play. The SPCA is reliant on the communities they serve for operating costs, so donations of pet food, veterinary equipment and supplies, vehicles for transporting rescued animals are always welcome as well as cash.

We spoke to Caroline Smith – marketing manager at the Durban & Coast SPCA about her job and the SPCA’s duties and roles.

Caroline Smith

Q: How did you come to be in this line of business?
A: I left my position with a media group back in 2002 and made a conscious decision to change the direction of my career and was particularly interested in becoming involved with dogs. I happened to apply as a volunteer at the Durban & Coast branch of SPCA. The application form asked for some background on experience etc. It happened that the organization had been without a marketing and PR person for some time. I received a phone call asking me to come through for an interview for a position – serendipitous to say the least. I gladly accepted the position and have been happily employed as the Marketing Manager since.

Q: What is it about the SPCA that drew you into this job?
A: Being able to combine my marketing skills with a cause that is so close to my heart – and doing something every day that I know does make a difference.

Q: Of your achievements as an organisation (Durban Coast branch), what are you most proud of?
A: I am extremely proud of our move from Cato Manor to our present premises in Springfield Park. This move to a more central, accessible and visitor-friendly premises has helped to bring more attention to our cause and the plight of the thousands of animals each year which are abandoned, abused and in desperate need of new homes. People love visiting our spotless and attractive SPCA and because of this the adoption rate of our orphans has increased.

Finding new friends

Q: What things about the SPCA do you wish all South Africans could know?
A: That we are not funded by the State. There is a misconception that we are – when the reality is that we rely upon public generosity in order to carry out our work in animal welfare.

Q: What kind of person does it take to work at the SPCA?
A: Somebody with compassion, tenacity, strength and an unfailing commitment to the cause….oh, and a huge dollop of humour!

Q: What are some of the best & worst things about working where you do?
A: The worst part is the sight of the tragically mistreated and neglected animals that are brought into our clinic -many of them emaciated, mange-ridden and at death’s door. It is a sad reflection of the human condition that these trusting and domesticated creatures are treated like this. The best part is seeing one of our “orphans” leaving our premises with their new owner. That is the highlight of my day! We have a gallery of orphans available for adoption at

Saving lives daily

Q: What do you hope that the SPCA can ultimately achieve?
A: To reach into the psyche of every human being in South Africa and make them realize that animals are sentient beings, deserving of lives free of pain.

Q: What are the most common misconceptions about the SPCA?
A: That we enforce the by-laws! This is the responsibility of Durban Metro Police e.g. responding to reports of barking dogs and collecting stray dogs at large (NB: if the dog is confined we will collect).

Q: What can everyday South Africans do to help the SPCA?
A: Support support support! Your local SPCA is always in need of support – be it in the form of cash donations, gifts-in-kind, volunteers, food etc. Also please be our eyes and ears and report any mistreatment or cruelty to animals – save your local branches’ after hours emergency number on your phone. The NSPCA have a contact list for all branches on their site

Q: Christmas time is a particularly difficult time for the SPCA. What advice/ warnings would you give to the public regarding animals over this period?
A: If going away on holiday, make timeous arrangements for boarding facilities for your pet. These facilities usually become fully booked way ahead of time. If you are making last-minute plans for a getaway rather get a trusted friend or relative to house-sit and take proper care of your pet, rather than just popping in to feed and water. Pets become lonely. Christmas time is a period when we experience a lot of abandonment and we often have false alarms in these situations when pets are reported to us by neighbours as being abandoned although somebody is feeding and watering while the owners are away.

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