Ask Peg Loague what her favourite type of animal is, and the answer is simple. It's the animal that needs her help right now.

Peg loves animals and she has devoted her life to them. Her greatest labour of love was an active 40-year involvement with SPCA New Zealand, which included 17 years as its national president.

That dedication was recognised with a simple but heartfelt presentation at the Taupo SPCA recently, where Peg was presented with a glass award and inducted into the SPCA Hall of Fame.

She joins, as the SPCA puts it "a select group of individuals across the country who have given many years of their personal time and commitment to addressing animal welfare in New Zealand and in particular to supporting the SPCA movement in achieving its purpose".

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Peg grew up on a farm near Otorohanga and her parents taught her that animals had to be properly looked after.

"If you have an animal, you have a responsibility to it and that responsibility should mean that the wellbeing and the comfort of that animal comes before your own."

It was after Peg moved to Taupo in 1968 with her first husband and her children that she saw a notice in the paper calling a meeting of people interested in helping re-establish the local SPCA which at that stage had debt and was defunct. Peg went along, and in best Kiwi tradition, found herself on the committee. She and the other volunteers got the branch sorted out and the debt paid off and over the years the SPCA grew to be very busy.

Peg Loague with her SPCA award. She is pictured with husband Gordon Loague (left) and Geoff Sutton of SPCA New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Peg Loague with her SPCA award. She is pictured with husband Gordon Loague (left) and Geoff Sutton of SPCA New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

"I think I had every position on the committee and I got a warrant reasonably early in the piece as an inspector under the Animal Protection Act."

Peg's paid work was as a driving instructor for Taupo Driving School and she says her driving school car occasionally did double duty as an animal ambulance, although never when she was conducting driving lessons. However she wasn't above stopping for the occasional emergency.

"I remember one time when I had a pupil driving and I saw a billy goat all tangled up so I said 'stop, pull to the left gently doing all your checks etc', so he did and I got out. It took me a while to untangle the goat and when I got back into the car the pupil said 'oh God Peg, you stink!' It took me a while to untangle the goat, but longer to get rid of the smell."

Early on in her involvement Peg became a delegate to the SPCA national body and rose through the ranks to eventually occupy the post of president, a title she held for 17 years.

She was also a founding member of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, both government committees formed to advise on animal welfare and the ethics of animal use in science. She was also on several ethics committees and spent six years as the animal welfare representative on the Veterinary Council of New Zealand. She says the work, although busy and with a lot of travel required, was enjoyable.

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"It was more listening to people and sorting the wheat from the chaff and listening to people's concerns and figuring how serious they generally were. Every concern for that person is genuine but how relevant is it to the situation? You learn as you go along."

Peg's roles were all unpaid, although as SPCA President she received an honorarium. She put countless hours into the work and meetings, with frequent trips to Wellington and Auckland.

Peg Loague has been caring for sick and injured hedgehogs for more than a decade and says each one has its own different personality. Photo / Supplied
Peg Loague has been caring for sick and injured hedgehogs for more than a decade and says each one has its own different personality. Photo / Supplied

"I don't think I would like to try and do the travelling now, but I did get myself trained so I could hop on the plane and be asleep before we had hit the end of the runway."

Peg's involvement lasted some 40 years. After she resigned from the presidency in the early 2000s she remained on the national council for a short time but then took up a position with the American Humane Association as one of its international film animal
welfare managers, ensuring that animals used in movies such as The Last Samurai and George of the Jungle II were not mistreated.

After her AHA involvement ended, Peg found a new passion — hedgehog rescue. She was given two hedgehog babies that needed looking after. Peg saved them and thought she was done. But the next season there were more. She fell in love with them.

"They were thrust on me at the beginning and I recognised these amazing characters and all different personalities. They are all so different."

Hedgehog Haven has been running for 20 years and Peg is now looking for someone to take over the day-to-day care of the hedgehogs next season. She will offer advice, see to the funding and deal with enquiries but says somebody to be hands-on would be wonderful.

At present she has 13 hedgehogs in care, with two carers who help. She also has an SPCA cat and two rescue dogs.

She says animal welfare problems are largely the same as they always were, with the big one that more domestic animals are born than there are homes for.

"Desexing is still vital. Desexing has been my mantra forever and the only way to stop the killing is to stop the breeding." Peg also holds a Queen's Service Medal for her dedication to animal welfare.