Celebrating 25 years of saving animals

RSPCA Noosa shelter manager Nicole Cleary (centre) celebrates 25 years with colleagues.

By Abbey Cannan

Overseeing roughly 50,000 adoptions during her time at RSPCA, this Noosa resident’s 25 years of service to animal welfare deserves to be celebrated.

When she was a child, Nicole Cleary dreamt of having as many animals in her home as she could, but like most kids begging for a new pet, she was told no.

“When I got married and came up here to Queensland, I always thought I wanted to be able to have whatever animals I wanted in my life,” Nicole said.

“I was a pastry cook at the time and I had a fair bit of time in the mornings and I saw that there was a RSPCA and I just started being a volunteer and I loved it.

“It was just amazing and I thought working with the animals and the dogs in particular was terrific.”

RSPCA was in the middle of taking over the Noosa shelter at the time, and Nicole scored a full time a position and was eventually promoted to manager.

“So, I’ve been here ever since,” Nicole said.

“I’ve had some really lovely opportunities over the years.

“I’ve won a scholarship and got to go over to tour around America to see what happens with my peers.

“I’ve worked at all the RSPCA shelters and there’s nine of those and I think that’s just broadened what we do as an organisation.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in being able to contribute to welfare all across Queensland.”

Nicole said she had always been an on the ground working manager, doing the same tasks as her staff, from cleaning kennels to washing dogs.

“I love to do fundraising and catch up with the community side of the job as well,” she said.

“I do believe that we have to have a people focus to be able to get great results for the animals.

“I know how hard it was 25 years ago when we didn’t have de-sexing, or microchipping and we were probably only in the early stages of developing what the RSPCA did.

“So, I value and I take away from it that I’ve been able to see the bigger picture.

“It makes you really compassionate to how people are because I just think we could all end up in that situation at any stage where we’re reliant on someone helping us.

“Whether it’s in a disaster or whether it’s just because we can’t find somewhere to live.”

Nicole said when she first started at RSPCA Noosa 25 years ago, they were having to make tough choices on which animals stayed in care and which ones had to go to heaven.

“Because there were just too many animals and not enough homes,” she said.

“Whereas now, you’re really only ever having to euthanise on something that you can’t ever manage.”

Nicole said she believed the overpopulation of animals had decreased.

“We’re very lucky in Noosa as we hardly have any baby animals being born at all,” she said.

“Also, Noosa runs as a transient centre for other shelters which means we’re always staying full and we’ve had some really successful adoptions.

“We get some beautiful animals up here from other shelters such as Dakabin and Gympie.

“I like to be supportive of colleagues and I do feel at RSPCA we all work as a great big family and we’re all a branch of each other.”

Nicole said social media had become a huge help in pushing their cause.

“You never used to see what happened with the animals and now we get to share the good success stories and see what happens with them as they’re moving through their lives with their new owners,” she said.

“I’ve been quite lucky in a smaller shelter, being able to have a hand in a lot of the adoptions.

“I’m only as good as the people that have helped me along the way as well.”

Nicole said it was amazing to rally people together who had the same passion for animals.

“The dedication comes from when you go home at night, you’re looking at your shelter and knowing that everyone’s alive and you’ve given them the best that you can while they’re in your care,“ she said.“But you also need to be able to let them go when you know that you’ve got the perfect owner for them.”

After her long career with the company, Nicole said she couldn’t see herself going anywhere else.

“If I went another 25 that would mean I’m 80. And then at least maybe I’d be the oldest living shelter manager,” she said.

“I’d love to say that I’ll be here until I retire.”

Nicole said RSPCA Noosa had been organising some great fundraising events and garage sales for when COVID-19 restrictions eased.

“We will still doing some virtual adoptions over the internet as well, but it’ll be lovely for people to come and visit the shelter again after having a bit of break,” she said.

Keep up to date with their latest fundraising events at www.facebook.com/RSPCAnoosa/

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