NOT many folk can say they have joined police on a quail fighting ring or wrestled with swans in high street traffic.

But there’s not many folk quite so dedicated to their vocation as Accrington animal lover Steve Greenhalgh — Lancashire’s answer to Doctor Dolittle.

Over his 28 year service, the retired RSPCA inspector leapt to the rescue of literally thousands of East Lancashire’s injured, abandoned and abused animals.

Stranded cats, injured birds, stray dogs and even angry snakes can all thank Steve for keeping them out of harms way.

After three decades patrolling East Lancashire Steve was forced into retirement due to a knee injury.

Now in tribute to his beloved job he has written an account of his experiences in a book documenting his career.

A Seal Pup In My Bath charts his time with the RSPCA, including working with the Animal Hospital TV series team and the show’s star Rolf Harris when the crew came to Nelson to rescue a marooned cat on the canal bank.

“Rolf is as nice a guy as he comes over on TV, he really cared,” Steve said about the Australian artist and animal lover, who was regularly in tears at the plight of the creatures on the show.

Steve signed up to the RSPCA’s training scheme at the minimum age of 22, after deciding a seven-year academic course to become a vet was not for him.

“People all thought I was a bit young to be doing the job and I developed this reply to put them off: ‘They are making us younger to last longer’,” he said.

One of his early jobs saw Steve recruit the help of the police divers all the in the name of animal safety.

He was called to Haggs reservoir at Accrington to rescue a distraught duck with a crossbow bolt in its wing, and after numerous solo attempts to catch it, he called in a colleague — but the bird continued to foil the pair.

“The next day we got the police frogmen out, and they came saying it would be good training for them,” he said.

“Even with their expertise and two boats, he gave us a run for our money but we got him eventually and took him to a vet to get the bolt out.

"And he survived.”

Steve admits his work and family life often intertwinned leading to his house becoming known as ‘the RSPCA place’.

One of his most memorable occasions was when a distressed seal pup was delivered into his arms by a man who had travelled from Blackpool.

The family gave the young pup a home for the night in their family bath tub - hence the name of the book.

Steve added: “There are ups and downs with the RSPCA; there’s probably nothing better than helping an animal back to health.

"Like a swan, seeing it get better, and then watching it fly gracefully away.

"That really is something else, a kind of euphoria. But the other side of the coin is when you have to destroy an animal.”

Another memorable day came when a German Shepherd was brought in to be put down by a couple who couldn’t look after it Swayed by the animal’s ‘big saucer eyes’, Steve found it a place at the Altham RSPCA centre and it was rehoused.

“Technically and legally I should have put it to sleep, but I couldn’t,” he said.

“It was rehomed with a couple renovating a house out in the sticks of Pendle.

"He even alerted the family to a fire and saved them. I felt rather happy and proud not to have let him go.”

Steve admits he was devastated when he was forced to retire in 2001, but he is enjoying a new career in writing and performing poetry, as well as writing music as part of The Yuve.

His previous books include a true crime work Foul Deeds And Suspicious Deaths In Blackburn And Hyndburn, as well as a children’s book in memory of his daughter Emma Kate Greenhalgh-Yates, who died aged 29 after battling a brain tumour for seven years - which raised money for East Lancashire Hospice.

Not all of Steve’s experiences as an RSPCA inspector were a laugh a minute, there were also some serious and moving moments, all of which are documented in his book, out later this month.

The devoted animal lover added: “The animals can’t thank you, often your reward is a scratch or a bite and a visit to A&E.

"They’ll more often than not resist your efforts to help and sometimes fight against you, but that’s just the way it is.

"Still if you’ve anything about you, helping the helpless is a privilege.

"It was quite something to know that, every day, I could make that all-important difference.”

n A Seal Pup in My Bath, published by Constable Books is available from May 26, priced £7.99.