Careers with Horsepower - BC SPCA Constable Jamie Wiltse
By Margaret Evans
Many people with a passion for horses dream of one day turning that passion into a career. Today, there are many opportunities to pursue a horse-related occupation, from the more traditional career paths, to jobs that combine equine knowledge with non-horsey skills and experience, to professions in new areas of specialization. Opportunities for the training, education, and experience to prepare for a horse industry career are more accessible than ever before.
This feature explores the career of BC SPCA Constable, Jamie Wiltse.
“Primarily, I respond to allegations of animals in distress with the goal of working with an animal owner/caretaker to relieve any distress and to improve the welfare of their animals through education and cooperation. If necessary, deterrence may be in the form of legal proceedings,” says Jamie Wiltse, special provincial constable, BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Cruelty Investigations Department, Kamloops Area. “I also attend schools and public events to provide humane education as well as work with other agencies in my community such as the RCMP, Bylaw, First Nations, Child and Family Services, etc.”
Photo (above): For BC SPCA Constable Jamie Wiltse, one of her favourite parts of the job is taking a horse from a bad situation and restoring it to health, then seeing it go to a new home.
Wiltse participated in 4-H and Pony Club as a child, and volunteered with the SPCA where she gained valuable knowledge and experience.
“Most of my education and work experience as an adult was enforcement-based (which) fitted together nicely for a career with the BC SPCA Cruelty Investigations Department,” she says.
Wiltse believes that the qualities that make a good investigator include compassion and empathy for both animals and people, integrity, good judgment, neutrality, an ability to work independently as well as part of a team, assertiveness, problem-solving skills, and, of course, a love of animals. Often overlooked by those thinking of an enforcement career is that while the focus is animals, the majority of what constables do is working with people.
“If you aren’t a ‘people person’ this won’t be the right field of work for you,” she said. “Also, you won’t change the world (for animals) overnight. Every small act has a ripple effect that improves the welfare of animals over time. In my opinion, a good investigator is focused on education/prevention and is drawn to and exhibits characteristics in line with the service element of our job. The majority of our calls are not crime related.”
Working as a special constable means there is no typical day. “Sometimes I can travel over 4,000 kilometres a month to investigate reports of animals in distress. When we do have horses in care I work with fosters, local vets, even feed stores to return the horses to good health. I love to see the happy endings; one of my favourite parts of the job is taking a horse out of a bad situation, returning it to health, and seeing it off to a new home.”
With colleagues, she participates in public relations activities and fundraisers to maintain awareness in the community. Paperwork must be completed for court cases and time is taken to give evidence.
“I entered this career because I wanted to help animals, but with that comes seeing animals in varying degrees of distress which can be really tough. Self-care is so important when you are on the front lines working with abused and neglected animals. I also hope to see a day where the BC SPCA is supported with government funding. BC SPCA is the only enforcement agency in the province not funded by government, but we are sworn in as Peace Officers under the Police Act to enforce animal cruelty laws under both the Criminal Code and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Having more constables on the road would be such a benefit.”
She adds, “Every day I have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of at least one animal.”
This article was published in the Equine Consumers’ Guide 2015.