Dr Wirth's involvement with the RSPCA, will however continue as its patron. He is also the revered presenter of a fortnightly spot on ABC Radio's 774, on Saturday mornings at 9.00 am and will continue in that role for the forseeable future. He further announced to his radio listeners today, that he is suffering from Parkinson's disease, but doing well so far. He is leaving his role as President of the RSPCA Victoria, on his own terms, rather than being pushed out, or forced to retire due to ill health.
Dr Wirth is an obvious nominee for Australian of the Year for all of us that love animals and value animal welfare and protection. To many of us he is already a living Australian Treasure and role model for vets, pet owners and animal activists world-wide, much less here in Victoria.
In a stellar career as chief veterinarian and president of the RSPCA for as long as I can remember, Dr Wirth has advocated and negotiated for the welfare of animals. The Domestic Animal Act of Victoria, owes much to the work and input of Dr Wirth and the RSPCA, for major improvements in such basics as laws governing pet dog and cat ownership and aquisition, early desexing of domestic animals, microchipping and compliance of licensed breeders of cats and dogs to ensure the ongoing welfare of animals they breed.
Campaigns I remember Dr Wirth driving over the years in Victoria include:
- Improvements to animal welfare within the racing industry, including restrictions on the use of whips, jumps racing, which he continues to fight to end and improvements in horse transport standards.
- Promotion of desexing of domestic pets to reduce unwanted animal numbers. Thanks to Dr Wirth, it is now way cheaper to register desexed animals than un-neutered ones with local councils.
- Microchipping of all domestic cats and dogs via local council animal registration bylaws in an effort to reunite lost pets with their owners as well as track and prosecute those who illegally dump unwanted pets.
- Promoting annual vaccinations of preventable disease in domestic pets, such as cat flu, canine distemper and parvo virus.
- Regular health checks for senior pets.
- Spearheading the RSPCA's " a pet is for life, not just for Christmas" campaign.
- Ending the practice of tail docking of dogs in Victoria, where this barbaric practice is now illegal!
- Post bush fire animal welfare and programs to unite animals with their owners being established for future bushfire disater incidents as well as including domestic animals in fire evacuation plans in Victoria.
- Night time cat curfews and confinement, to protect cats from nocturnal cat fights, road injuries and deaths, as well as protecting indigenous wildlife from being hunted and killed by cats.
- Educating parents and children about safety around domestic pet dogs.
- Agitating for minimum knowledge requirements for prospective pet owners.
- Community protection from dangerous dogs, via the Dangerous Dog Act of Victoria and campaigns to end the keeping of some dangerous breeds.
- The welfare of dogs used for guarding industrial and other premises.
- Duck-shooting, which remains an ongoing thorn in the side of animal welfare in Victoria.
- Raising community awareness in relation to the illegal practices of cock fighting and dog fighting in Victoria
- Promotion of culls where over populations of a species threatens the welfare of all members of this species, such as Kangaroo culls at the Seymour Army base or Koala populations near Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road,.
- Safe and comfortable animal transport. Carrying dogs and cats in boots is now illegal in Victoria!
- The live animal export industry
- The lives and welfare of battery chickens under the poultry industry's care, resulting in greater regulation over the space requirements and cleanliness for the caged birds.
- Intensive pig farming and the welfare of pigs living in confined quarters.
- Greyhound racing, including the adoption rather than slaughter of ex racing greyhounds and ending live baiting. Dr Wirth now has a former racing greyhound amongst his own pets.
- Community education regarding the need for shade and protection from the elements for domestic animals.
- Work to make puppy farming illegal and educating the Victorian community about the apalling practices of such intensive breeding facilities and disregard to animal welfare within them!
- The dangers of leaving pets alone in parked cars in hot weather. Now a prosecutable offence in Victoria.
- Restraining pets in cars for both driver and animal safety.Dogs are now legally bound to be restrained in Victoria.
- Making it illegal in Victoria to perform painful practices on animals, such as gelding of stallions, mulesing of sheep and similar, without administering an aneasthetic.
If all those achievements were not enough, Dr Wirth also served as both commitee member and President of the World Society for the Protection of Animals for some years, where he was able to liaise advise, assist and instigate, on a global scale, on behalf of wild and endangered animal species, as well as target practices that confilcted with the welfare of domestic animals, such as the problems of street dogs and cats around the world.
He was also resident vet at the Melbourne Show annually in September, on call to serve the needs of sick or injured animals during the course of competitions and animal exhibition.
On a personal level, I have had three friends for whom Dr Wirth was the long term vet to their animals, who invariably spoke of his level of care and support for both their pets and themselves. One shared his love of Cornish Rex cats and owned the half sister to one of Dr Wirth's own Cornish Rex. I have regularly listened to Dr Wirth on Saturday mornings. His own work has inspired my own in relation to advocating and educating in relation to animal welfare. Dr Wirth's books,'Living with Dogs', 'Living with Cats' as well as his autobiography are all recommended reading for animal lovers.
I wish Dr Wirth a long and happy retirement and continual media comment in relation to animal welfare and health for many years to come, as well as many happy years with his own beloved animals. No doubt "Dr Hugh" will continue to contribute very much to the RSPCA, as it makes it's way under the presidency of someone new. However, Dr Wirth's shoes are very big ones to fill and I only hope that the RSPCA's new president is given the time and support to eventually fill them. Such breadth and depth of knowledge and experience, gained over a lifetime in animal welfare is not going to be easily replaced.
Hats off to Dr Hugh and remember it up to all of us in the broader community to make animal welfare an ongoing priority!
Speak up for animals who have no voice themselves and do all that is within your means and available time on their behalf!
Here is the link to make a start: http://rspcavic.org/get-involved