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Meet SPCA Inspector Sue

suebaudetThursday, 28 August, 2014

What do Inspectors do? Why is there a need for them?

Sixteen years ago, advertising sales executive Sue Baudet had an epiphany. She decided that her role selling advertising space was not, in itself, as fulfilling as it could be. What was it that she thought really mattered to her most? Animals - was her undisputed answer.

Now Sue helps lead and support 83 SPCA Inspectors across New Zealand - from bustling Auckland city to remoter places such as Gore. Sue nurtures all of these qualified practitioners - those who speak for animals, who we all know, cannot speak for themselves.

Is this fulfilling? Oh yes.

Is it difficult? Well... yes.


A new cruelty

One worrying trend via the internet, is the rise of crimes labelled 'recreational cruelty', where mostly young males strategically target animals (often wild) for the narcissistic twist of creating a type of online infamy. These young men "seem to get obscure pleasure out of hurting and maiming, and often killing animals, filming them and posting them on the internet".

In 2013 the SPCA dealt with 13,542 complaints resulting in nearly 70 prosecutions. A 52% rise in prosecutions compared to a year ago, this reflects the strength of the Inspectorate - its support structure and resources. This year, in a landmark case, a Northland possum trapper was sentenced to two years and four months in jail. Although possums and some other critters are officially classed as pests, under the Animal Welfare Act, they are still protected. "They are sentient [beings] and in circumstances like the Heka case, are afforded the same protection."


A "toxic" connection

There is plenty of evidence linking cruelty to animals and cruelty or violence towards people. There is no psychological term for this - but the bottom line is toxicity.

"We always hope that these people are rehabilitated," says Sue. "That is not up to us, obviously, but the person themselves. We can only prosecute."


Psychologically taxing

How does Sue reconcile such heinous circumstances with her outside life, which includes a supportive partner and one child?

"I think it's a matter of maturity and balance. Being able to see things from all sides. Finding a good sense of well-being and making sure I do things in my outside world far removed from the cruelty I sometimes come across. It's not easy and yet it is so fulfilling. I feel privileged to do what I do. It can of course be psychologically taxing - as much as police, emergency nurses, doctors and ambulance folk - we are often daily all in high stress situations following traumatic encounters and yet there is a way to operate and function well and find that life/work balance."

The road has been long and tough since her days as part time volunteer-turned qualified inspector knocking on doors - and plenty of times getting the door slammed back on her with a currency of nasty words to boot, but boy Sue knows her stuff. Sometimes flooded with legalese and matters concerning prosecution - she can be behind a wall of sentencing papers or she can be part of a team executing a search warrant on someone setting dogs on captive pigs.


When does work rock for Sue?

"When abused animals are rehabilitated by the centres, nursed to health and handed into welcoming homes. That's when the well-being of the animal and human and home are all honed in a way that shows SPCA at its best."


Originally published in the Winter 2014 edition of the SPCA New Zealand newsletter.