The Job and What's Involved

RSPCA/Scottish SPCA (SSPCA) inspectors help prevent cruelty to animals by doing practical investigation work. They respond to complaints about animal cruelty or neglect and reports of suffering wild animals.

Following a complaint or call, an RSPCA/SSPCA inspector will go to the premises - e.g. a private home, farm, pet shop or kennel - to investigate. They meet the owner and check whether any animals are being mistreated or neglected. They may also talk to witnesses.

If their investigation shows neglect, the inspector will advise owners on animal care, for example, by discussing and explaining correct feeding methods or how to clean out living quarters.

If the investigation shows evidence of cruelty, which is illegal behaviour, the inspector will gather all evidence and remove the animal from the site. They will interview the owner and any witnesses and vets who have seen the animal. Statements are collected and sometimes photos or a video are taken at the scene.

A complete report of the cruelty investigation is sent to the RSPCA or SSPCA headquarters, and a decision is made whether to issue a warning or take the matter to court. An inspector's report is vital in the decision-making process.

In Scotland, inspectors are required by law to be accompanied by another inspector or police officer when investigating a cruelty or neglect complaint.

Inspectors also undertake wild animal rescue work. In towns this may involve helping to rescue an injured fox. In rural areas, a deer may be trapped in a ditch or a sheep on a cliff ledge. Once the animal is rescued, the inspector then has to decide if it is strong enough to be released, if it needs medical treatment or if it must be put down humanely.

Another aspect of the work is educating the public about animal care and protection. This includes giving talks and presentations to schools, colleges, organisations and at special events. An inspector may be interviewed for local radio or TV as part of a news item or on an animal care programme.

Inspectors work with a wide range of people including the general public, other inspectors, the police, Social Services and dog wardens.

RSPCA inspectors work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday. The work is on a rota, covering the hours between 8am and 8pm and including some weekends and on-call emergency duties. SSPCA inspectors work 37.5 hours a week between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. They may work on a rota to cover some weekends and emergency on-call duties.

Inspectors are normally based at home, receiving calls and doing paperwork. However, most work is outdoors in all weathers. Lots of time is spent driving between different locations, so a full driving licence is normally required. The job may not be suitable for people with certain allergies.

Inspection work can be dirty, muddy and involve unpleasant smells. Rescue work can be potentially dangerous and involve, for example, climbing trees or cliffs, entering ditches or flood water. Inspectors have to be prepared for some distressing sights.

The usual starting salary for an inspector is £15,879 in the RSPCA and £15,728 in the SSPCA. Accommodation allowances are paid, as inspectors are based at home. This is usually around £3,000 a year. A uniform is provided.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The RSPCA currently employ 330 inspectors throughout England and Wales. Around 2,000 applications are received each year for, usually, 20 vacancies.

The SSPCA currently employ 55 inspectors throughout Scotland. Only around three new inspectors are recruited annually, so there is strong competition.

Vacancy information is available by contacting the chief superintendent of the RSPCA or SSPCA. Details can be found on their websites.

Education and Training

Applicants for training with the RSPCA must:

  • Have at least two GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English and science.
  • Be physically fit and able to swim 50 metres fully clothed.
  • Have a valid driving licence.

Previous experience of working with animals is desirable. Qualified inspectors must be prepared to work anywhere in England and Wales.

Applicants for training with SSPCA must:

  • Have five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English.
  • Have a good level of physical fitness.
  • Have a valid driving licence.
  • Have experience of working with large and small farm animals.

Qualified inspectors must be prepared to work anywhere in Scotland.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The RSPCA's inspector training course lasts six months. It includes written examinations, eight weeks of field training, a visit to an abattoir and a week each at a stables and an agricultural college. Successful trainees become probationer inspectors for six months before confirmation as a full inspector.

The SSPCA's course lasts five months and is based in Glasgow. After two years of qualified experience, an intermediate examination is taken and an advanced exam after another two years.

Both organisations cover similar areas in training, such as:

- Animal welfare law and handling skills
- Basic veterinary training
- Investigation and interpersonal skills
- Mountain and boat rescue techniques
- Public speaking and media training

NVQ's/SVQ's are available in Animal Care at Levels 1 to 3. Inspectors can work towards these on the job, as achieving them includes workplace assessment.

Both organisations provide refresher training for inspectors, to update and develop their skills.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An inspector should:

  • Know a lot about animal care and treatment.
  • Have excellent spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be tactful, reliable and responsible.
  • Be physically fit to handle animals of different sizes.
  • Have emotional strength.
  • Be able to keep calm in emergencies.
  • Think logically.
  • Be able to gather facts and assess situations.
  • Work well alone, but also as part of a team.
  • Be able to write accurate, detailed reports.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are sometimes promotion opportunities to chief inspector in England and Wales, managing teams of between five and ten inspectors. Experienced chief inspectors may progress to become regional superintendent, work in training or in another management role.

In Scotland, inspectors may progress to senior inspector, then chief inspector, superintendent, and ultimately chief superintendent.

There are sometimes opportunities to work overseas, training inspectors in other countries, or providing support in rescue operations following events such as oil spillages, floods or volcanic eruptions.

Get Further Information

Animal Care College, Ascot House,
High Street, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7HG
Tel: 01344 628269

The College of Animal Welfare,
London Road, Godmanchester,
Cambridgeshire PE29 2LJ
Tel: 0870 062 1122

Royal Society for Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA),
Wilberforce Way, Southwater,
Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Tel: 0870 333 5999

Scottish Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA),
Braehead Mains, 603 Queensferry Road,
Edinburgh EH4 6EA
Tel: 0131 339 0222

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