The Board of RSPCA Australia has today paid tribute to the organisation’s outgoing CEO Heather Neil, who has announced her resignation after more than 12 years at the helm.
RSPCA Australia Chair Gary Humphries said the organisation owes Ms Neil a huge debt of thanks and gratitude for a stellar list of achievements during her time as CEO of RSPCA Australia.
“We understand and respect Ms Neil’s decision and she moves on with our best wishes,” said Mr Humphries.
“She has done an exemplary job for more than a decade, heading up a leading charity charged with the very serious and difficult mission of improving the lives of millions of animals, a role that is not for the faint-hearted.
“Ms Neil has carried that role with integrity and trust, often in highly-charged circumstances, and has successfully held the gravitas necessary to ensure RSPCA Australia had a seat at the table.
“Throughout her term of leadership, the RSPCA has continued and strengthened its position as the nation’s leading animal welfare organisation.
“With the backing of an extraordinarily capable and dedicated group of scientists and specialists, Ms Neil has taken huge strides to progress the mission of RSPCA Australia in advocating positive change for the welfare of animals on a wide range of issues, all based on scientific evidence,” said Mr Humphries.
Ms Neil leaves the role with a number of valuable legacies:
Live exports - RSPCA Australia has translated overwhelming public opposition to live animal exports, particularly during the public exposés in 2011, 2016 and 2018, into an effective evidence-based advocacy campaign to replace live animal exports with meat exports. As a result, Australia is now closer to ending the cruel live sheep trade than at any other point in its history.
RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme - This RSPCA initiative has grown exponentially over the past decade to become a recognised global leader in farm animal welfare assurance. More than 1.6 billion animals have had better lives because they were raised in accordance with RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards.
Greyhound racing - The RSPCA’s response helped ensure swift and strategic action was taken to introduce reforms to the industry following revelations about horrific live-baiting that emerged in 2015.
Equine welfare - The RSPCA has made outstanding progress in increasing the focus of the racing industries on horse welfare and through community awareness and engagement with the racing industries, significantly reduced the use of the whip. Its advocacy work has also garnered immediate and significant support to prevent the introduction of equine exports, including a donkey skin trade from Australia.
Caged hens - The RSPCA has made great strides in its long-term campaign to achieve an end to the use of battery cages that included a record-breaking 165,000 individuals making submission to the Federal Government to support the end of their use.
Cage Free and Proud - Many of the largest retailers and food outlets in Australia agreed to join RSPCA’s highly-visible national Cage Free and Proud campaign, with more brands regularly joining the movement.
Mr Humphries said Ms Neil has been particularly effective in fostering strong relationships with governments, primary producers, retailers, brands and other animal welfare organisations in Australia and overseas.
“She has been at the forefront of ensuring RSPCA has been a key player and leader in Australia’s not-for-profit sector, including as a member of the Board of the Community Council for Australia,” he said.
“During her 12+ years, Ms Neil has led by example in upholding the highest standards of professionalism among her team as well as safeguarding the respect and trust people have placed in the RSPCA and its mission to improve animal welfare and uphold the famous five freedoms for animals everywhere.
“Ms Neil will be missed by the Board and the staff of RSPCA Australia, and I know I speak for all of us when I say, we wish her all the very best in the next phase of her career,” Mr Humphries said.
Ms Neil’s resignation is effective on 18 April 2019.