GSPCA manager celebrates 10 years with the charity

STEVE BYRNE thought someone was joking when he got the call to work for the GSPCA.

GSPCA manager Steve Byrne with Molly at the animal shelter’s 149th anniversary event last month. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30633456)
GSPCA manager Steve Byrne with Molly at the animal shelter’s 149th anniversary event last month. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30633456)

A decade on, the GSPCA manager said he has enjoyed every day working for the animal charity, which has its base in St Andrew’s, where he and his family live.

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

‘I lived on-site at the RSPCA in Sheffield at the time when the phone rang and John Knight, local vet and GSPCA president, introduced himself and said that the GSPCA would like to invite me over to meet and talk about the post.’

Coming from South Wales and living in Sheffield at the time, he was missing the coast – and Guernsey reminded him 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 being such an amazing island, I really haven’t looked back. I enjoy every day despite the many challenges we face.

'For me, Guernsey is the most amazing place to live in the world, I absolutely love the island. From our amazing community to 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.’

He said it had been incredible working at the GSPCA for 10 years, though the past two have been very challenging.

'We have achieved so much and have so many plans for the future.

‘Just this week we have completed new flooring in the kennel corridors, and more importantly in an area which will be dedicated to small animals, birds and reptiles, as well as launching the new plans for the wildlife hospital.

'All of what we have done couldn’t be achieved without our amazing team of staff, volunteers and of course our incredible supporters and community.’

A huge amount had changed and continued to in that time, from the buildings to an updated strategy and a new charity shop opening in Town soon. The demands and workload had also increased dramatically with wildlife, although fewer dogs and cats needed homes.

‘We continue to respond to over 1,000 calls of concern and cruelty each year, but thankfully the vast majority are able to be resolved with a bit of advice,’ added Mr Byrne.

‘The biggest challenges we all face are the rising costs, so now more than ever every penny makes a big difference and all support is hugely appreciated. The most frustrating thing has been the pressures Covid has put on how we work, raise funds and operate, and I am so proud of our team and we are so thankful to all those that have supported us through these difficult times.’

The number of sick and injured wildlife – more than 2,700 last year – also showed the real need for a new wildlife hospital. Meanwhile, the GSPCA continued to help more than 1,000 domestic pets a year, from strays to cruelty cases, including rehoming and emergency care.

Cases over the years have included helping animals from guinea pigs to rabbits, reptiles and birds. It also looked after 1,000 pets a year through its boarding facility and helped hundreds of families through the death of their pet through its cremation service.

‘We help so many other animals in other ways – we truly never know what we will see, from geckos smuggling themselves into bags from foreign lands needing quarantining to calls for large numbers of animals not being cared for,’ he said.

Mr Byrne – a keen cyclist and sportsman – said he was truly blessed to work for such an organisation, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, and appealed to the island community to support the GSPCA’s ongoing work.

As well as being manager of the GSPCA, he is also a trustee for the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes – which represents charities across the British Isles and Ireland. Mr Byrne also sits on the council for the Association of Guernsey Charities and is a freemason, helping to raise money for other local charities.

‘Mistaken identity story is one that will stay’

THE story of a case of mistaken identity is one that will stay with GSPCA manager Steve Byrne, he said.

‘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,’ said Mr Byrne.

‘I carefully took the box and asked him to take a seat and fill in some details while I checked it.

‘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. ‘That story just shows how incredibly caring the people of Guernsey are, even for our cuddly toys.’

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