A Stokes Valley vet is in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt for treating animals whose owners couldn't stump up with the cash.

Ian Hughes has operated out of Stokes Valley Veterinary Clinic alongside his wife Lorna Hughes for 34 years

They have saved animals from horrific fates but now Ian Hughes needs someone to save him.

Last year he was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer, which has now spread to his liver.

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His stepdaughter Vicky Roebuck said Hughes has always put animals first.

"He has always thought it's not the animal's fault that they're owned by someone who can't afford what they need or perhaps don't care enough.

"His clinic was quite often a dumping ground for people because they knew they could take them to the Stokes Valley vet and be cared for. Of course, now, for every great client who has sort of persevered and paid their bills and credit off, there are a lot of people who haven't."

Roebuck said the unpaid debt amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, money that Hughes needs for his care.

"If you imagine the Oxford dictionary, there's a stack of debt that thick."

Angel, a Staffordshire Terrier, was locked under a house for months and chewed her way through a grate to escape. She was found on the roadside and taken to Stokes Valley Veterinary Clinic.
Angel, a Staffordshire Terrier, was locked under a house for months and chewed her way through a grate to escape. She was found on the roadside and taken to Stokes Valley Veterinary Clinic.

Roebuck said Hughes went to great lengths to save animals' lives.

As a child she said she remembered a German Shepherd called Casey who was the victim of a domestic abuse incident.

Roebuck said a woman tied Casey to the back of her car and dragged her 5km in spite of her partner.

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"When she came to Ian, fur was missing, she was scathed to the bone and she was in a lot of pain", Roebuck said.

She said it took nine months of rehabilitation and recovery but Casey got her life back.

"She was always scarred and had fur missing but she was a happy, happy dog and she was our family pet until she died."

Northern Ward councillor Gwen McDonald said people in the community were devastated and disappointed.

"People have actually come to me and said they find it really quite disgusting that people haven't paid him because he's done good turns."

McDonald said however there was not much anybody could do except support Hughes.

Some members of the community have done just that.

Deb Bird said she first took her rescue dog called Gypsy to see Hughes four years ago.

"Ian never struck me as a people person, he's all about the animals and the animals really love him.

"He's like Dr Doolittle."

Bird said the community would miss Hughes greatly and people were doing their bit to help out his family.

"We are all trying to get people to pay their bills because it's just not fair on the family.

"He's going to be hugely lost and missed in Stokes Valley and we just don't know how anybody could fill the big hole he's going to leave."

A Givealittle page has been set up to help Hughes.