Confessions of a Council Worker
*Phoenix used to work at a large UK council. She worked in different departments during her time there, from Environmental Health to the Waste department. If you wanted to know if the council had collected your cat, or you wanted to report a cat sadly deceased on the road - she would be the one you would speak to.
*Phoenix is a huge animal lover, and appreciates how owners need closure should the worst happen. She has sadly witnessed first-hand the desperation in a member of the publics search in finding out what has happened to their beloved pet.
I hate lying. 90% of my job at the council was lying to people. In a way though, this wasn't a lie, there would be no record of their cat being scanned....because they were never scanned in the first place.
We were told to mislead people who phoned in asking had the council found their cat. We were told to tell all callers anything that put them at ease basically.
We were dictated to, demanding we take control of each phone in, and only stay on each call for a maximum of 4 minutes, 20 seconds. If a call was about to head over our target time, we were told to get the caller off the phone at all costs. We'd have to tell them no report of their cat had been filled, and advise they phone the local Cats Protection.
Sometimes I'd take a call where an owner would be begging us to call them back straight away if the council came across their cat. Once a lady was so distraught she begged me to let her know of any sightings, but asked I call her back on another specific phone number as she didn't want the kids to catch on what was happening, as they were upset enough missing their little mate. That particular call I stayed on for half an hour trying my best to reassure her, and calm her down. I felt so terrible - I gave her my word I would personally look for her cat on my way home from work myself. I took details of her cats markings, size, sex....naturally I got in deep trouble for this phone call. I was told to tell them what they want to hear, within a 4-minute target.
I would check on my way to and from work as well, unfortunately I couldn't find the cat, but I would always advise people who called in to advertise on lost and found sites on Facebook. I got into trouble when I was caught advising that also. I didn't care though, and I would always log the descriptions I knew of on Harvey’s Army Facebook page. Anything I could do to help.
Calls like this were especially hard to deal with. I am an animal lover, I love all animals, and I could barely cope with listening to heart broken owners all day - they just wanted to find their beloved pets, that's all!
I also used to work for Environmental Health, and the amount of people who used to phone us to report stolen pets was unbelievable. They would never allow us to take ID of cats though, but me and my friend always secretly did. Strangely though, we were never allowed to contact the dog warden directly. All we were told was to input details of the dogs in to the system. They told us to log details of cats as well to keep the caller satisfied we were 'doing something.’ Problem was, both with the cats and dogs, there was no system to actually cross reference what we were inputting - it was pointless.
Any deceased cats reported, the street cleaning team would collect them within 24 hours. They never scanned any of them, just chucked them in the truck and off to landfill, I guess. Knowing this was going on whilst I was taking calls from distraught members of the public looking for their pets broke my heart.
I was allowed to take details of where the cat was reportedly found, such as the road name and exact spot. This would be so the council could collect them off the road. Me and my friend used to take more details than we should, and try and get as much information and description as possible. We'd always note these privately, and we would use our own cross referencing if anyone phoned up looking for their cat. Obviously, we weren't supposed to do that. One day a manager walked by my chair, and overheard me asking all the questions we were banned from asking. I was called to one side after the phone call and told to follow the process only.
I did confront management about how they handled things, on numerous occasions, which, of course, they didn't like. I always got the same response that cats are 'wild animals'....that was their justification every time. Doesn't even make sense.
Some of the other members of the team felt belt bad. Not all were animal lovers, so some didn't really care. The ones who did appreciate, and care for animals, didn't tend to do anything about it because they were all scared of losing their jobs by not sticking to the call time frames, or asking something they shouldn't - caring was a sackable offence. I didn't care though, I hated the job. I couldn't justify doing the job any longer, we were never listened too when we raised our concerns, they didn't want to know. I used to come home after work each day, and my heart would break.
When I finally handed in my notice it was a huge relief. Apparently, the council claim to scan these days, but knowing how they internally work - I doubt much has changed. Maybe to the public it looks good, but the mind-set inside that place I doubt has changed. "
*CatsMatter has changed the name of the author, and will not disclose the council, so as to protect the workers identity. Also note, this is not a reflection of every council nationwide and not all behave this way internally, however, without a national law for mandatory scanning procedures, how can we be sure the system is working to the best possible standard?
We would like to thank *Phoenix for taking their time to share this story with us and help raise awareness of the issues we are battling so tirelessly.