Saturday, 2 April 2016

RSPCA Inspector Mike Reid - Final Call

2016 has started off badly with the very sad news that another of my colleagues has died.

Mike Reid had been called out at the height of Storm Imogen to check on  a flock of seabirds that had apparently been forced down onto rocks and were being battered by the high winds and heavy seas.

There would likely have been very little that anyone could have done given the conditions and it may well have been that they were weathering the storm in a normal manner but no RSPCA Inspector could take that chance and certainly not Mike.

Sadly his RSPCA vehicle was found nearby the following morning  and after days of extensive searching by the Police ,  Coastguard and the RSPCA it has been presumed that he was swept out to sea.

Although originally from the Wirral Mike had been one of the Cornish based RSPCA Inspectors for most of his career and we regularly met at joint group meetings, training and rescues. You usually heard him before you saw him as his infectious laugh always proceeded him into any room.

One of the few really genuine 'nice guys' it has been my pleasure to know. 

Hopefully the RSPCA will institute a rescue award in his name that will ensure his memory and devotion to duty lives on with each new intake of RSPCA Inspectors. 

RSPCA Inspector Mike Reid - End of watch February 7th 2016.

Monday, 2 March 2015


It does seem that years and years of experience counts for very little these days and everyone wants paper qualifications which can certainly be an indication of knowledge but not necessarily competency.

I started working with animals long before I left school and was employed from 17 onwards working in a veterinary surgery so next year it will be 30 years working in the field of animal welfare - scary !

Sadly the RSPCA didn't go down the external certification route until just before I left so despite all those years experience I don't have any paper qualifications to show for all the jumping off cliffs, complex investigations, court appearances, driver training and boat handling (apart from a Royal Yachting Association level 2 Power boat handling certificate somewhere).

Obviously , and as you can see from earlier posts I have numerous RSPCA commendations and awards which I'm immensely proud of along with a fair few letters of appreciation from members of the public but not really any professional qualifications.

I would however  back myself against anyone in an investigation and prosecution scenario and must be almost unique in that I've worked as an (R)SPCA Inspector in 3 Countries.

The UK

And Bermuda

For the past 12 months I've taken a step back from front line animal welfare and have been studying for a qualification in a slightly different field and can now officially put CRCST after my name.

It is unlikely most people will know what a Certified Registered Central Service Technician is but if you have been in hospital for an operation (or even possibly to the dentist ) you will have benefited from the work of a Central Service Technician (or Sterile Service Technician in the UK).

Basically Central Service Technicians deal with all the surgical instruments that are used in hospitals and operations and are responsible for collecting them after the operation, decontaminating, inspecting, assembling instruments sets, repackaging, sterilising and distributing them back out again to the Operating Theatres. In some hospitals duties also include the stores and general medical supplies as well.

Certainly a very interesting field and still very relevant and useful to my passion for animal welfare. The study reminded me of the time in Sri Lanka during the first Tsunami back in 2004/5 when I was volunteering at a mobile field clinic , cleaning and reprocessing the instruments in basic conditions.

Lets hope I put these new qualifications to good use in 2015.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Dr Neil Burnie another great animal advocate and friend lost.

After leaving Bermuda last year I regularly check in on the Royal Gazette website to keep up to date on what is happening and Skype with friends but nothing prepared me for the shock of finding out Neil had died doing what he loved most - diving.

I worked closely with Neil in Bermuda on numerous investigations and he always had time to stop and chat. Many an evening I'd been called out to an injured stray cat and met him at his surgery and ended up chatting for hours in the car park. He never seemed in a rush and rarely if ever billed the SPCA for his call outs.

He was one of those people who had an amazing passion for life and was always bouncing off the walls. One of his many many talents was music and he could seemingly play any musical instrument he put his hands on. You would find him at street parties and events wandering around with a saxophone around his neck or if you were really lucky he would pull out his harmonica and just start riffing. 

His timing sometimes could leave a lot to be desired and I well remember the day when we were just leaving magistrates court and he decided it would be a good time to play a tune. No sooner had the inner courtroom door closed then he started playing some blues , walking through the court building, through the metal detector and out into the street. Only Neil could get away with something like that.

'Diego' is just one of the hundreds of animals he examined for me in my 2 1/2 years in Bermuda. 

A truly amazing, unique man. 

He had just finished filming a TV show called 'Ocean Vet' and I'm sure it would have been a massive hit and resulted in him travelling the world (even more than he already did) and becoming a Superstar not just in Bermuda and the marine community.

Here he is before he actually managed to get his shot at television - quite prophetic.

Dr Burnie - Filmed at the Bermuda Aquarium

Another amazing friend I'll never get to speak to again.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Lots of interesting adventures since leaving the Bermuda SPCA, one of which was volunteering at a cat sanctuary on an island off the coast of Belize.
Six weeks living in a hut on the beach trying to avoid (unsuccessfully) getting eaten alive by sand flies. Compensated by the fabulous views and a dock surrounded by tropical fish and stingrays.
Fabulous snorkeling when the weather wasn't tipping down with rain (which is did constantly at least 50% of the time)

Treated myself to a guided snorkel tour on the reef 2 miles offshore with a dodgy tour guide who just moored the sail boat and took us swimming up to half a mile away from the boat actually over the top of the reef and into the rough water on the other side. The swell was bouncing us all over the place and one minute we were 5 feet above the coral and the next we were dropped down on top of it.

I was bleeding so much that I had my own personal shoal of fish hovering around and even got nipped once or twice as I was waiting my turn to climb back on the boat. Good job I brought a decent first aid kit. So the moral of the story is only go out with reputable guides.

Although I helped out with the cats most of my time was spent helping another volunteer Gavin with some much needed structural improvements. The shelter has rental cabins for the backpackers which help fund the food for the cats and we started improving the shower and toilet facilities. Unfortunately the water table was so high that the hardest part was digging the footings for the shower-block walls which filled with water within 4-5 minutes.

Certainly a worthwhile experience.

Lots of new plans for 2014. I've got a commission for a series of articles in a pet magazine as well as a new job in a new location so watch this space.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Inspector Deb Large . An Inspiration and sadly missed.

It was with great sadness that I found out  that an amazing friend and colleague Deb Large from Hereford passed away on 2nd October following a long illness.

Deb was an inspiration to myself and colleagues when we were first posted to Wales as Probationary RSPCA Inspectors way back in 1994. An equine expert, Scuba Diver and a dead shot with a shotgun Deb was always up to something.

We worked together on a number of large and complex equine investigations and prosecutions and she was the go-to person for local knowledge after working in Hereford and surrounding counties for most of her career.

She was a good friend and whilst working all around the world has it's advantages one of the biggest sadness's that I experience is not being able to keep in touch as much as I'd like with friends like Deb.

 I last spoke to Deb a few weeks before and I knew she was having problems and I was hoping to see her when I got back to the UK in December sadly this was not to be.

The animal welfare community has lost another dedicated guardian. I will miss you Deb.

If any readers to this blog want a fallen SPCA Inspector mentioned please get in touch and I will be honoured to include their information.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Book review : Trident K9 Warriors

I'm a great fan of military autobiographies so when I was leaving Bermuda and found a book token I had been given I was straight down the bookshop to find a book to read on my travels. This title immediately caught my eye and as it was the only copy and was for the exact amount (almost) of the book token I thought it was an omen.

On the face of it the mix of a military autobiography and a book about K9 service dogs would seem an ideal and interesting combination but if you were expecting lots of action and adventure along the lines of the popular works such as 'Bravo Two Zero', 'Sniper One' or even 'Apache', you will be sadly disappointed.

The plus points of the book are that Mike Ritland comes across as a very caring handler and is quite outspoken about negative reinforcement training techniques. For dog trainers it might prove to be an interesting insight into the training of military working dogs. It also gives a general historical perspective of the adaption of the dog from a means of static guarding to an offensive and tactical weapon .

The problem that I had with the book is that it wasn't very well written and jumped around all over the place. There was no logical progression . Some authors have a skeleton of a narrative and do dip into the past when events prompt a flashback type chapter. Mike however swings back and forth from operations to Seal training to dog and puppy training with no apparent structure.

Even the actual war zone encounters don't really get you interested. The whole book is written like your confused and slightly absent minded uncle would talk about his wartime experiences.

Clearly too many people are jumping on the bandwagon  with their Seal Autobiographies in much the same way as the SAS guys did after Andy McNab published his first book.

This book retails at $25.99 in the US and Bermuda and is certainly not worth the money. I'd wait for it to hit the discount and remainder book sellers if you felt you really had to add it to your library. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

I'll shortly be leaving Bermuda after 2 years as the Bermuda SPCA Inspector and taking a much needed break to catch up with friends.

I'm also working on a YouTube channel as well as updating my website and will post the  links here when they go live.

If anyone has any projects or suggestions or knows of any vacancies don't hesitate to get in touch and there is no need to worry as the beard was a very short lived experiment and is long gone.

Best wishes