Are you happy? Ross Hayes, animal handler

Some people are surprised that I haven't got pets myself. I love animals, but I don't want to go home to empty a litter tray after a hard shift. We deal with all sorts at the animal reception centre, from animals travelling legally to people bringing in different species in their hand luggage, whether it's tortoises, reptiles, cats, small dogs. I've seen all sorts of crazy stuff - lions and tigers. There was a box of reptiles that wasn't tied down properly, so the box broke open. Sometimes dogs get so stressed in travel that they chew out of their cages - when the hold's opened up, there's a big alsatian staring out at me.

You have to use your intuition. A 12-year-old child with an illegal terrapin is not an animal smuggler. But recently we had a gentleman who had some snakes in a pillowcase wrapped round his leg. He said he was keeping them warm for the journey.

You do have your bad days, like when animals haven't been stowed properly and they're suffocated with bags. Sometimes whole boxes are dead. They might come from countries that are not so up to speed on techniques, or that view them as commodities.

The thought of sitting at a desk would send me round the twist. I've been working with animals since I was 15. They make me happy. You smile and chuckle when you see some reunions, owners hugging their cats, or embracing their chihuahua with big eyes. It's good to see. You smile and think, go on then.

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