Volunteers called for SPCA crisis force

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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A team of Wairarapa volunteers will be trained as the Emergency Reserve, who will tend to animal emergencies after hours. PHOTO/FILE
A team of Wairarapa volunteers will be trained as the Emergency Reserve, who will tend to animal emergencies after hours. PHOTO/FILE

A team of Wairarapa residents will be trained to attend animal welfare after-hours callouts in the region.

The new group is being developed by the Wellington SPCA to enhance the charity's emergency management response capability in the Wairarapa area.

The Emergency Reserve will be made up of trained, dedicated volunteers from the district, who will primarily provide emergency animal ambulance services after hours.

They will ensure sick and injured animals receive aid by transporting them to an after-hours veterinary clinic.

Wellington SPCA has held meetings with a number of vet practices in the region, as well as animal controls and some rescue groups, about the Emergency Reserve.

Wellington SPCA volunteer programme co-ordinator Holly Stephens said the Emergency Reserve was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

It would benefit the Wairarapa region in a number of ways, she said.

"The reservists will be integral to the local inspectorate and will support our inspectors by responding to animal emergencies after hours.

"This will help to reduce inspector fatigue and ensure that our inspectors are capable of continuing their valuable work within the community."

In a Civil Defence emergency, such as flooding or an earthquake, volunteers will establish pet-friendly shelters and help to evacuate and transport animals.

Ms Stephens said the establishment of the group would also present more volunteer opportunities for the community.

People would receive training opportunities while helping animals in need, she said.

"The reserve provides an excellent pathway for volunteers to gain experience working as part of the wider inspectorate if they are considering a career as an SPCA inspector or with local animal management services.

"This is also an excellent opportunity for aspiring veterinary professionals and students to gain trauma experience."

Ms Stephens said the role would be both challenging and rewarding.

She said volunteers will not be expected to perform hazardous or high-risk rescues, which instead would be referred to the SPCA's Animal Rescue Unit.

They will also not be expected to respond to callouts after 10pm unless other emergency services or security were at the scene.

Wellington SPCA is seeking Wairarapa people to join the team. Applicants will need to take a selection assessment involving a swim test and a manual handling test.

Training for the role includes modules such as animal welfare, animal disaster management, pet first aid, bird handling and transportation of injured animals.

The initial training for reservists is completed over two weekends, with further opportunities offered for training and certifications in various emergency situations.

Reservists will be placed on a weekly roster to provide the after-hours service.

Contact the Wellington SPCA volunteer team at volunteer@wellingtonspca.org.nz for more information.

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