Paul Grimes joined The Mayhew as our Animal Welfare Officer in July 2012 and has been kept very busy doing different welfare work from one week to the next.
With over ten years’ experience working in the animal welfare and veterinary sector, Paul says he wanted to join The Mayhew “because of its long standing reputation in caring for, helping and rehoming animals, and because of the work they do in the community across London.”
His previous years spent rehoming smaller companion animals and caring for those needing intensive vet treatment had prepared Paul for life as a Mayhew Animal Welfare Officer (AWO), but can there ever really be a typical week where an AWO can predict their working schedule?
“Every day is different, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy my job. A typical week would be a combination of trapping colonies of feral cats, bringing them to our vet clinic to be spayed and castrated, then returning them to their initial habitat. I also respond to welfare concerns for animals such as dogs chained up in the garden with no shelter, pregnant stray cats giving birth in people’s sheds, to animals which have been left behind in houses after the owners have moved away.”
It isn’t just animals that Paul spends his time helping on a daily basis; the work of an AWO is as much about people as it is about the animals.
“My colleagues and I regularly visit a number of Homeless Hostels, giving the homeless pet owners bags of dog food, collars and leads and arranging vet appointments if needed. Additionally we visit a number of schools and scout groups giving talks on Responsible Pet Ownership and How to be Safe Around Dogs, as education on this matter is vital; there are many grown adults who simply do not have a clue on how to care for their animals responsibly. Therefore, some days, I could find myself on a fourth story rooftop trapping feral cats in the morning, then in the afternoon I could be giving a talk in a school to the children. I enjoy this variety and find my work very rewarding.”
The positive achievements of animal welfare work are, no doubt, gratifying, but it is a role which means also seeing the worst side of animal ownership.
“The toughest part of my job is dealing with people who will not take responsibility for their actions. I recently dealt with a case where an irresponsible owner did not get her cat spayed and watched as she became pregnant and gave birth to a litter of kittens.
She then subsequently sat back and did nothing as the kittens grew up into adult cats, become pregnant and gave birth, watched that litter of kittens grow up, and then watched the son cats’ mate with the mother cats, and the father cats’ mate with the daughter cats, still not thinking to approach anyone for help.
She watched the inbred kittens be born, grow up and become pregnant and by the time a concerned neighbour notified us, there were over 20 cats, half of which were inbred. And the owner’s response to my query why she hasn’t sought to neuter her cats? ‘It wasn’t my fault; there was a stray cat in the area that got my cat pregnant’”.
After witnessing the highs and lows of animal welfare work, Paul is keen to spread the message he values of utmost importance to try to improve the lives of our animals in the UK.
“Without a shadow of doubt, it has to be getting your cats neutered. People don’t realise how quickly things can spiral out of control. You may have a lovely friendly cat who is perfect in every way, but if you do not get her spayed and she becomes pregnant and gives birth in an abandoned garden shed how are you going to know where the kittens are? The kittens will grow up not having any human contact, and by the time they are able to walk around the garden, they will have never been touched by a human and are feral. They then naturally run away as soon as a human tries to go near them, and they grow up living feral (wild), become pregnant and have kittens of their own which are also feral, and this is how a feral colony of 20 cats is started all because somebody postponed getting their pet cat spayed…..”
You can find out more about Paul’s work and the projects run by the Animal Welfare team by visiting our Community Projects pages.