Submitted by Steve on 13:14, 13th Aug, 2021 | 0

This week GSPCA Manager Steve Byrne celebrates a decade working for the GSPCA.

Steve came to the GSPCA after 15 years with the RSPCA having worked in various management roles in England and Wales and was the youngest ever manager being 18 years as a Deputy Manager and then 21 when he was running the 72 acre RSPCA Llys Nini Animal Centre in South Wales.

During his 10 years at the GSPCA we have been through many exciting times and been celebrated in many ways and we posed a few questions to Steve to reflect on his time –

Tell us a little about yourself?

Steve Byrne GSPCA Manager said ‘Well where do I start, I turned 42 this year and animal care has been a way of life for me since a very young age.

My Grand Father or Grampa Jim was passionate about animals and especially birds like budgies and canaries and by the age of 11 I had a few of my own and that led to 3-4 paper rounds to pay for quite a large collection of aviaries by the time I was 13 and I was heavily involved with 3 cage bird societies.

My younger years were spent surrounded by animals from volunteering to work and at the age of 18 I got to work at the brand new animal centre in Swansea called RSPCA Llys Nini and within just 3 years I was running the 72 acre site.

After 11 years there I went to help the RSPCA Preston for a year and then went to RSPCA Sheffield where they were opening a brand new site which I got to recruit and train the team and set up the procedures.

I absolutely loved my time with the RSPCA and never thought I would leave.

It was bit of a dream being asked to come over and I now find myself here in Guernsey where I have got married, we had a little boy 5 years ago and have a lovely family of 5 of us as well as our 2 dogs Moly and Zeke, as well as our tortoise, not to mention a massive network of amazing friends.

We live on site at the GSPCA, so the job is very much a way of life and something that I am very proud of.’

What do you do when you aren’t working?

 ‘Truly I am always working whether it be monitoring messages, our social media, answering calls, promoting the work of the GSPCA and I know my wife thinks I do far too much giving up my days off to help run events and talks.

Saying this I do like to keep busy so I have been a trustee for the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes for the last 5 years and just been re-elected by the membership.

The ADCH is made up of over 150 animal charities from across the British Isles and Ireland and when we can I really love to visit other centres and swap ideas which I have been doing since a very young.

I am also on the council for the Association of Guernsey Charities which I joined last year, and it is great to be able to support the amazing local good causes that do so much.

6 years ago I became a freemason which is another passion and a fantastic organisation doing a huge amount for local charities, raising tens of thousands each year and even donated ambulances to St Johns and vehicles like the one at Grow.

When not doing that I try to fit in cycling with the kids with at 100+ miles a week as I avoid driving whenever I can, lots of dogs walks, running, water sports and lots more as well enjoying rugby and time with great friends and family.’

What did you think when you were asked to work for the GSPCA?

‘I actually thought someone was pulling my leg when I first got the call to work for the GSPCA.

I lived on site at the RSPCA in Sheffield at the time and when the phone rang John Knight local vet and GSPCA President introduced himself and said that the GSPCA would like to invite me over to meet and about the post I am now in.

Coming from South Wales and living in Sheffield at the time I was really missing the coast and when I first came to Guernsey it reminded me so much of home, especially the Gower coast.

I never thought I would leave the RSPCA, but with the GSPCA having the same values and objectives and such an amazing island I really haven’t looked back and enjoy every day despite the many challenges we face.’

How have you found working for the GSPCA?

‘The GSPCA is a truly incredible organisation making a difference in so many ways both for animals and our local community.

We help through the doors over 3000 sick, injured, stray, cruelty cases and animals looking for homes, over a 1000 boarding pets, over 1000 families suffering bereavement, investigate 1000 calls of concern or welfare and help many more.

The main difference between the RSPCA and GSPCA other than the size of the organisations is that vast array of services and incredible range that we do here.

As the only all animal welfare organisation working 24/7 365 days we do so much and never know what we will be asked to do next.’

What are you most proud of?

‘There are so many things to mention but the BIGGEST is our phenomenal team which without we couldn’t do so much.

Having the team to care for 300+ animals a day and provide around the clock care and achieve all that faces us on a daily basis is without doubt an amazing testament to how amazing each one of the GSPCA team are.

There has been so many developments over the last 10 years from the new Animal Welfare and Cattery building which cost £1,350,000 to the reflooring of the kennels, the improvement of equipment to fixing the pools for the seals, the memorial garden and chapel of rest to the tortoise runs, new aviaries to the plans for a new wildlife hospital.

We won the Charity of the Year back in 2016 and also were recognised internationally with a Special Animal Welfare Award.

In fact we have won many awards and been recognised in a huge range of ways from our social media to our customer care, conservation work to our events, work with the unemployed to seeing staff on the stage for individual international awards.

That’s the big stuff but every day seeing how we help each animal drives the passion and commitment for doing more and the gratitude from the community is truly overwhelming and so appreciated as without them we couldn’t do so much.’

What is the biggest challenge working for the GSPCA?

The biggest challenge is not knowing what the next challenge will be.

We have a fabulous mission statement, strategy, values and vision statement but we never know what we will face.

That means running the rota for the GSPCA certainly is my biggest daily challenge, but somehow we mange each day to achieve an incredible amount.

That goes alongside without having enough hours in the day as we always want to do so much more.

The other major challenge is raising the £2,000 a day it costs to run the Shelter and find the funding for the big projects we want to do.’

How have you found Guernsey?

‘For me Guernsey is the most amazing place to live in the world, I absolutely love the island.

From our amazing community the stunning coastline I cannot think of a better place for my family and I to be.

The only thing that would make it better is if the rest of our family were here as due to Covid its been a very long time since we last saw them.’

What has been the worst case of cruelty you have seen?

‘In the RSPCA centres I ran we often had 100’s of cruelty case animals and in Sheffield my first week there was being part of removing a 100 cats that were being cruelly treated in one house.

In the last 10 years although we don’t see huge numbers or cruelty very often there were the 25 Slovakian puppies that were being illegally transported which was one of the biggest cruelty cases.

There was the 3 snakes and bearded dragon that were left for weeks without care and we have been involved with a few farm cases, but thankfully many of the calls we get can be resolved with a little advice and guidance.

It seems every year we are called out to help large numbers of animals and some of the cases have included nearly 60 poultry from one place, nearly 100 guinea pigs from another, nearly 100 aviary birds, 20 reptiles from a home and we have had multiple rabbit cases including 60 from one home.

Often we get people saying you must see horrendous things and sadly we do, but the important message is we are here to help and once we are involved then that animals life will be put on a much brighter path.’

What is the kindest act you have seen?

‘We see acts of kindness every day from those rescuing the animals in need that come through the doors to the many donations and gifts from funds to those items on our wish list pages and appeals.

The kindest acts every day are those from the team at the GSPCA who care so much for the animals and strive to ensure the GSPCA does its very best for our island.’

Has anyone ever brought anything odd in to the GSPCA?

‘I cover many night shifts at the GSPCA and just last night I was helping a hedgehog covered in maggots at 1am and another found in the road at 5am.

The one that will always stay with me however was when a gentleman arrived on a sunny evening sadly in tears.

He had found what he thought was a drowned cat in a puddle which he had carefully wrapped in a blanket, popped in a box and brought to the GSPCA.

I carefully took the box and asked him to take a seat and fill in some details while I checked it as I thought it would likely be microchipped and we could quickly find the owner.

When I opened the box and removed the blanket I wasn’t faced with a dead cat, or even an animal, what in fact he had picked up was a wet, muddy toy dog hand puppet.

You can imagine how the poor chap felt when I had to break the news and the lady behind him with a baby bird in her hand also had a little laugh especially when I brought it out to show them both and that story just shows how incredibly caring the people of Guernsey are, even for our cuddly toys.’

What are the priorities at the GSPCA?

‘Every day is a priority to raise the funds needed, care for the animals, help those in need and support our community, but we have some BIG plans.

Lockdown put our Wildlife Hospital on hold which is a much needed facility, we are about to open a new charity shop in town very soon, we are developing an area on site for the small animals, I’m currently working on a company for designs for new hedgehog cages and we need an extra crusher for our rubbish that we can’t recycle.

You can see many of our priorities on our wish list web pages.’

What is your favourite event of the year?

‘10 years ago I had a meeting with a chap called Peter Falla at the Tourist Information Centre to see if we could hold a Seafront Sunday with an animal theme.

Next month we will hold our tenth Animal Welfare Seafront Sunday that although is a massive amount of work and organising, it is without doubt my favourite day of the GSPCA calendar.

How many charities can say they take over their capital to celebrate the work that they do and with around a sixth of the population.

The feed back we get each year, the smiling faces and the fun is incredible and we look forward to our tenth event on the 12th September.’

What would you like to do if you had a magic wand?

‘We have lots of wishes and the wildlife and small animals are the current priority, although we would love to rebuild many of the older sections including our reception.

We are so lucky to have bought our site back in 1929 for just over £400, but of the 16 buildings only two have been built in the last 15 years so we have a lot to do.

If I did have a magic wand it would be nice to make covid disappear as it has caused massive challenges operationally over the last 18 months from raising the funds to maintaining our 24/7 services.’

What has the future got?

‘Well lots as many will know we like to keep busy and strive forward trying our best to improve things.

All being well the hedgehogs will have new cages soon, there will be a new small animal area and fingers crossed we can push forward with the wildlife hospital.

We are currently looking for new team members to join us and to anyone thinking of doing something that makes a difference every day then this is a job that rewards in so many ways from finding animals new homes to reuniting strays, supporting families through difficult times to helping those unemployed find new skills, rehabilitating wildlife and releasing them, every day we help the future of animals and those living in Guernsey.’

Anything you’d like to add?

‘A huge thank you to the GSPCA committee, our team and all that support the GSPCA.

It’s the people that make the GSPCA and I am incredibly proud to be part of that and so grateful to all the amazing people I have met over the last 10 years in Guernsey.’

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