Press Release – NZ Companion Animal Council
A dedicated vet, killed by the elephant she cared for and loved, has received a posthumous award from a prominent animal welfare organisation.
The New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) has declared Helen Schofield one of the recipients of its 2012 Assisi Awards. Named after St Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals, the Awards honour those who’ve made outstanding contributions to the welfare of animals, whether in New Zealand or overseas.
Assisi Awards have also gone this year to Johanna Brens QSM, the hearing-impaired West Auckland woman who helped found and inspire Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in New Zealand, and to the respected Auckland petshop industry veteran, Rolf Jansen.
Also on the receiving list were Danielle Duffield, an Otago University student animal campaigner, David Barbour, a long-serving government animal welfare investigator and leading academic veterinarian, Professor Kevin Stafford of Massey University.
“As in previous years, the Assisi Awards have been presented to people who have made truly significant contributions to animal welfare,” says NZCAC Spokesperson, Bob Kerridge. “Our award winners are from a variety of age groups and spheres of activity and they also come from across New Zealand. But one thing they have in common is that they’ve all made a very real difference in the lives of animals.
“It’s a particular privilege, albeit a sad and poignant one, to make a posthumous award to Helen Schofield, who was so tragically killed in April this year by Mila (aka Jumbo), the former circus elephant she looked after and whom she was seeking to rehabilitate.
“Helen cared passionately about animals from her childhood onwards and was, above all, dedicated to saving exotic animals, including those, like Mila, who had been rescued from circuses.
“Having qualified as a veterinarian, Helen invested in Franklin Zoo, which she was transforming into a sanctuary where such animals could spend their last few years in dignity and safety. Her untimely death is a great loss to all New Zealanders who care about animals and to the creatures she looked after,” he says.
Mr Kerridge describes West Aucklander, Johanna Brens, as someone who has similarly cared about animals since childhood and gone on to make a noteworthy contribution through working with them.
“Johanna is a truly inspiring person. Despite the restrictions of hearing impairment, she has become one of the driving forces behind Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in New Zealand, an organisation she helped found in 1998, after studying the work of similar bodies in the United Kingdom and Australia,” he says.
“Rolf Jansen is another highly deserving award winner. A former SPCA Inspector, his chain of stores across Auckland became an exemplar for best practice in the treatment of animals, raising the standards for his industry far above where he found them, when he entered it in 1977. A characteristic of Rolf’s approach was that there was always a veterinary clinic either on the same premises as the store or very close by,” Mr Kerridge adds.
Danielle Dufford is in her final year of Law at Otago University, where she founded the Otago Student Animal Welfare Defence Fund Chapter, the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
She has also organised New Zealand’s first Animal Law Week at the University, was instrumental in the filing of a 5,000 word submission on the Draft Code of Welfare for Layer Hens, has campaigned against the sale of factory-farmed products on campus and worked as a volunteer with the Dutch ‘Party for Animals’, whilst on an exchange visit to the Netherlands.
“It’s a great pleasure to be able to recognise the work of someone as active and enthusiastic as Danielle. Undoubtedly, she has a great future ahead of her, both as a lawyer and an all-round advocate for animals,” says Bob Kerridge.
“It’s also a pleasure to recognise the long and distinguished career of David Barbour, who commenced working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry forty years ago and now works in an investigative role for the new Ministry for Primary Industries.
“David has been closely involved in Endemic Disease Control programmes for, amongst other species, pigs, sheep, cattle and deer. In addition, he accompanied three shipments of live sheep to the Middle East in 1989 and 1990, monitoring animal welfare issues and making proposals that reduced shipboard mortalities by more than five sixths.
“Last but by no means least amongst our Assisi Award winners is Dr Kevin Stafford, who, as Professor of Veterinary Ethology at Massey University’s Institute of Veterinary Animal and Biomedical Sciences, is playing an exemplary role in passing on his vast knowledge and enthusiasm to younger veterinarians.
“A fellow of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists, Kevin has produced a great number of papers, abstracts and books on animal welfare. He is a doyen of his profession and a more than worthy addition to the ranks of our Assisi laureates,” Mr Kerridge says.
The NZCAC is an umbrella organisation which brings together animal welfare bodies, veterinarians, academic researchers, animal control agencies, breeder organisations and others involved with companion animals. A key NZCAC focus is on understanding, promoting and celebrating the human-animal bond and the benefits of companion animal ownership.
The Assisi Awards are announced each year during the NZCAC’s annual conference. The theme of this year’s 23rd New Zealand Companion Animal Conference is ‘The Link’, a term covering both the empathetic relationship between animals and humans and the much darker connection between animal abuse and violence towards our own species.