Bonny Clacy (left), Janet Steel, and Bear. Photo: Holly Cormack.
Bonny Clacy (left), Janet Steel, and Bear. Photo: Holly Cormack.

UNSUNG HEROES: Life-changing work of Kingaroy RSPCA

WORKING for the RSPCA is not a job for the faint-hearted.

It takes a person who is compassionate enough to dedicate their life to caring for animals that can’t protect themselves, and brave enough to witness suffering and do what it takes to alleviate it.

The Kingaroy RSPCA team does just that. The healthy and sweet-natured animals being taken by their adoring adoptive families are the result of the tireless work of Bonny Clacy and her team.

Having started work at the RSPCA just four years ago, Ms Clacy quickly rose in the ranks to become manager of the Kingaroy RSPCA.

“I always wanted to work with animals. I was never sure if I‘d be able to work for the RSPCA, because I always thought maybe it’d be too emotionally difficult,” she said.

“It takes a lot of courage sometimes to keep coming to work everyday. But I think the perception of the role before I started was that it was going to be really tough, and I wasn‘t sure if I was going to be able to do it.” “But I think the feeling I had of not being able to help, and feeling helpless, when I wasn’t working here was worse.”

While stories of animal cruelty never cease disturb the team over the years, Ms Clacy said at least now she is in a position to help them. And the physical and behavioural transformation of the animals taken into the shelters care is reward enough.

“We’ll see really neglected, abused animals come into the shelter, and straightaway, without any second thought, they get vaccinated and treated,” Ms Clacy said.

“And then we get them on good quality food, provide them with any veterinary care they need, and it‘s amazing to see the transformation within a week. And then we’ll move towards finding them an amazing home.”

In addition to a physical transformation, the team work hard to socialise the animals and make behavioural adjustments.

“We get a lot of fractious cats. They‘re not so much feral, in terms of living entirely on wildlife to survive, but they’re generally living on the streets in urban environments. They may or may not have had much interaction with humans before they get here, so we do a lot of work with them,” she said.

“We also incorporate behaviour modification medication. That, for me, is probably the most rewarding; watching that turnaround in the behaviour and learning to trust us.”

Since starting at the shelter, Ms Clacy has gone on to win a Staff and Volunteer Award 2019, presented by RSPCA Queensland CEO Darren Maier.

In 2018, she initiated the Enrichment Challenge - a competition within the shelter designed to find new ways to keep the animals mentally stimulated.

“Because they‘re in kennels, we need to keep them happy and healthy in their body and their mind,” she said.

“There‘s all different ways that we can provide enrichment to animals, and so we ran a competition.

“We got guest speakers and behaviour professionals involved, and the prize was a couple of nights accommodation at Hillview Cottages.”

“The volunteers and staff were invited to participate and had the whole shelter really engaged and thinking of new ideas. We learned a lot and it’s just overall improved the wellbeing of the animals in our care.”

Ms Clacy will soon be going on maternity leave, and during this time, plans to continue her studies to become a veterinary nurse.

The team would also not be complete without the volunteers, who dedicate their time free of charge to caring for these animals. Their efforts play a critical role in the success of the shelter.

The Burnett is home to hundreds of unsung heroes, and we're on the lookout for those working behind the scenes to help their community.

If you know another unsung hero, please reach out to holly.cormack@southburnetttimes.com.au

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