The SPCA is the kind of place which people truly adore. No other charity, arguably, brings so much joy into people’s lives. When you adopt an animal from the SPCA, you not only give an animal a home, but you take care of a creature who needs a second chance in life.
I wanted to find out more about the wonderful people who run the SPCA so I got in touch with their amazing Wellington branch, located at the Old Fever Hospital up in Mount Victoria. While of course each and every animal has a story behind it, so does every person at the SPCA. I was fortunate enough to meet the fascinating Ros who’s story spans from Africa to Wellington.
WHO IS ROS?
Ros is the Corporate Services Manager at SPCA, mother to two daughters, wife to a loving husband and owner of two cats and a dog.
HOW DID SHE GET HERE?
Ros was born in Zimbabwe in the second biggest city, Bulawayo. Growing up, her father was a Policeman and her mother a stay at home mum. “Where I grew up, before the political problems, it was a wonderful place to live.” Ros explains. “Bulawayo had beautiful houses, normal supermarkets before the political problems worsened.”
Ros studied a Diploma in Sale and Marketing and Business Management - but admits her passion has always been animals. “I went on to do an accounting degree so I am also an accountant by trade. All through my career, however, I’ve been animal orientated” she says. “I was around African game animals from a young age. I worked for a Safari company in South Africa. I travelled with the company, selling the photographic packages and why it was important to come to support the conservation of the animals. For me, they are to be respected and their trust earned.”
"My best job ever - and it will always be my best job ever - was bottle feeding orphaned Cheetah cubs.”
Growing up, Ros’s family drifted apart geographically because of the difficult political situation in her home country. Over the years, Ros’s sister moved to South Africa and Ros herself moved to Botswana for a few years. “I moved to a Cheetah conservation sanctuary to preserve them because they had become quite endangered. My best job ever - and it will always be my best job ever - was bottle feeding orphaned Cheetah cubs.”
In 2005, UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland declared that Zimbabwe was in ‘meltdown’ after a four day visit. The President of Zimbabwe had caused devastation to the people and called for any British people to be removed from the country. “It was an interesting time in Zimbabwe,” Ros explains “You couldn’t buy normal food in the shops. You couldn’t buy petrol. It wasn’t safe to live there any more.” Ultimately, Ros was forced to make a hard decision. “There was a politically motivated move to take my family and for my own safety,” Ros explains in a low voice. “A lot of people were targeted - and I’d always said that once the personal safety of my family and girls was threatened, it was time to go. I moved away from everything that I knew to give my daughters a chance at a really good education and a better life. It was very tough.”
“I knew I was coming to Wellington but knew nothing about it"
Ros and her daughters had to flee and her and her daughters moved to Wellington in 2006 as refugees. “I knew absolutely nothing about New Zealand. I had to research it before I came here.” Ros explains. “I knew I was coming to Wellington but knew nothing about it.
When Ros arrived in Wellington, she’d come from Botswana where to coolest it got would be around 25 degrees “…in the middle of Winter” (she’d left Botswana in the middle of Summer). Ros and her daughter arrived in Wellington in jandals and cotton singlets. “We struggled with it badly. In the first 5 years, we couldn’t get warm. In Africa, you just can’t buy proper wind jackets and shoes. We just weren’t equipped!”
Settling into New Zealand was tough and finding a job even more so for Ros. “It was quite demoralising. But in the end, I found work at the Veterinary Association - and then I moved to the SPCA where I am to this day!”
“The change in location has given us a new lease on life"
Ros started at the SPCA 5 years ago as operations manager while it was undergoing major changes. She was given a clean slate and got stuck in, helping to transform the organisation from the dingy place on Mansfield Street in New Town to where it is now at the Old Fever Hospital in Mount Victoria. “The change in location has given us a new lease on life. Canine adoptions went through the roof. The building has a fascination because of its history but it is also bright and welcoming. People can come and interact with the animals and its changed the whole way people interact with the animals.” In 2016 Ros was promoted to Corporate Services Manager, her current role, which she loves.
WHY DOES SHE LOVE HER JOB?
Ros is truly motivated by her passion for animals. Also, in a job like hers, no two days are the same. “I often have the whole day mapped out - and I can get to 5 o’Clock and have done nothing!”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST SPCA MYTH?
“People think we euthanise animals that don’t find homes and that is totally un-true,” Ros says. “We commit to animals until they've been found a home. People think that if an animal has spent more than two weeks, it’s out!”
WHAT'S HER ANIMAL PHILOSOPHY?
“I have a healthy respect for all animals, and you need to understand when you go into wildlife areas that you’re treading on their turf. You always need to be respectful of the personal space of even domesticated animals, for example, when a dog is sleeping.” Ros thinks that people also need to understand that owning an animal is not cheap - particularly with vet bills - and it's a long-term commitment. “You can’t put it in a cupboard and make it go away.” She also says some people don’t know about the laws around animal cruelty and that a little education goes a long way.
“You can’t put it in a cupboard and make it go away”
WHAT DOES SHE DO IN HER DOWN TIME?
Ros likes to spend time with her family and her pets (particularly her beloved dog). She and her husband also travel for 4 weeks a year, relaxing. She also does Jive and Latin American dancing for fun.
HOW HAS HER RELATIONSHIP WITH WELLINGTON CHANGED?
“If I hadn’t have bought a one-way ticket, I wouldn’t have stayed” Ros explains. “At first, I struggled with everything. People are willing to help you when you're new, but as a grown adult, it can be hard to ask people for that help. You don’t know the day the rubbish is collected - you know nothing. As I met more people, I was more comfortable asking and then eventually I met my future husband who took my hand and showed me the way."
WHAT IS HER FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE CITY?
Ros loves Makara, where she and her husband got married. She also treasures the view from the motorway, coming down into Wellington. “When you see the lights over the harbour, coming into the city, it’s the most spectacular sight. The sea and the ocean are very special, especially coming from a landlocked company like I do.”
HOW DOES SHE STOP HERSELF ADOPTING ALL THE ANIMALS?
Ros’s husband acts as the gatekeeper. She was limited to two cats. However, Ros snuck in a dog which she fostered, and then pulled some tears in an effort to keep, much to her husband’s dismay. “When I take animals home to foster, there needs to be a time-limit.” Ros sighs, longingly. “If it were up to me, I’d have many, many animals”