Prominent Victorian animal rights advocate Dr Hugh Wirth, who led the Victorian branch of the RSPCA for more than four decades, has died aged 78.
From his beginnings at a country vet in Gippsland, Dr Wirth quickly rose to prominence after he became president of RSPCA Victoria in 1972, a position he held for 43 years.
The organisation has credited him with leading successful campaigns to ban puppy tail docking and the end of exporting horses to Japan for slaughter.
He also developed a barn-laid eggs brand for the RSPCA in 1997.
He was also a familiar voice on ABC radio in Melbourne where he gave advice to talkback callers for more than 30 years.
Dr Wirth was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1985, and RSPCA Victoria said in a statement that the organisation would honour his legacy by continuing to advocate for better animal welfare standards.
RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker described Dr Wirth as “one of a kind”.
Dr Wirth was a tireless worker and a forthright, strong leader who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed was right,” Dr Walker said in a statement.
“He was passionate, incredibly knowledgeable and tenacious: Dr Wirth was at the forefront of many of the improvements we have seen in animal welfare in my lifetime.”
Dr Wirth was also president of RSPCA Australia for more than two decades, as well as leading the World Animal Protection organisation.
He practised at his Balwyn veterinary surgery in Melbourne’s east for almost 50 years, before retiring.