Judy Whicker retires from RSPCA president role
GLADSTONE'S passionate animal lover and go-to welfare advocate Judy Wicker has put aside the paws and wagging tails to focus on the I Dos in weddings.
Ms Whicker, for five years the president of Friends of the RSPCA Gladstone, has made the tough decision to retire.
The little girl growing up in Kingaroy who, when sent by her mother to the corner store would just as likely arrive home with a stray animal, turned her love for little creatures into being a passionate advocate for their welfare needs.
Ms Whicker got involved in the Friends of the RSPCA volunteer group after being a foster carer for orphan kittens and then taking on the role as foster care co-ordinator for dogs.
The caring role came naturally to the Queensland country girl who would come home from the butcher's missing some of the mince meant for a family meal, happily sharing with strays on her walk home.
With more than a decade with the Friends, Ms Whicker has loved the reward of helping find animals good homes in Gladstone.
"It's a positive. Looking at these beautiful animals when we find their forever homes, knowing they are going to such wonderful homes," she said.
"I probably do like animals better than many people.
"It's their loyalty, no nastiness."
However, as president with more than 120 animal foster carers now involved, Ms Whicker has found the challenging role to be very time consuming especially as she also runs her own business as a marriage celebrant and conducts funeral services, and also helps care for her grandson.
She gets upset at the way many people are still "uneducated" in their responsibility to their animals and that it is a lifetime commitment.
Ms Whicker said many pet owners still failed to vaccinate or desex their animals, saying it remained a serious problem and a cause of many unwanted animals, with cats having litters two to three times a year.
"Animal welfare is like a revolving door and Christmas will be worse as we have 60 cats and kittens in our care now and another 50 or more puppies," she said.
"Unfortunately we can't save every one of them."
What makes her blood boil is the issue of animal cruelty, which she said was an appalling problem.
"We still need tougher penalties. Fines don't cut it," she said.
"There is frustration with the penalties when we see the work we have done where animals have suffered."
Ms Whicker has great people skills and says the president also needs to be a problem solver who can quickly make the difficult decisions on the fate of animals.
"It is something I really love but it is time for me to move on," she said.
"They (volunteers) are an absolute wonderful group to work with and we have been very successful.
"Last year we rehoused 650 cats and dogs, something we can be proud of.
"The president helps keep the group together, focussed, particularly when working with passionate volunteers."
Her husband Kevin has been a great supporter in her role, who she says is often more soft-hearted than herself when it comes to animals.
Ms Whicker describes herself as a people's person, an ingredient necessary when working with animals, diverse personalities, and helping people in their time of grief at funeral services, or celebrating a couple's marriage.
The new president is Sarah Warry who has been working as the group's fundraising coordinator.