The Rudducks business in pet and animal health care products commenced in 1904 following the arrival of Dr Harold Rudduck, an English veterinarian. Dr Rudduck commenced his veterinary practice at 47 Queen Street, Melbourne and later relocated to 556 Lonsdale Street. Shortly after commencing his practice he started manufacturing products that would improve pet and animal health, or solve a variety of complaints from fleas & ticks to dietary supplements, and also basic grooming needs.
In 1905 Dr Rudduck published a 73 page book “The Diseases of Australian Stock, Their Prevention and Treatment”. The book was used as a resource by Australian farmers. We have been provided with a photocopy of one of the remaining copies of the book which included a number of whole page advertisements from animal wholesalers and retailers. Unfortunately the copy has had pages 27 to 30 torn out. Dr Rudduck acquired and operated a dairy farm at Coldstream in the Yarra ranges. His dairying activities were focussed around the high yield Guernsey and Jersey breeds. The farm was directly opposite Madam Melba’s with the region retaining a road in Dr Rudducks memory to this day.
History now shows that Dr Rudduck was highly respected by his peers, the community and government alike. He was commissioned by the Australian Government to return to England and undertake a study of the English beef market. His report was to identify the critical points of difference needed to advance Australia’s beef exports to England.
The Weekly Times reported on March 28, 1937 that the address by Mr. H. S. Rudduck, veterinary surgeon was a feature of the farmer’s convention at Geelong. The article went on to quote, “It was obvious, continued Mr Rudduck, that there was a great opportunity for Australia to supply not only Britain, but other parts of the world as well with beef at remunerative prices. The conditions were more favourable in Australia than in any other country for the production of best-quality beef in practically unlimited quantity.”
Dr. Rudduck went on to say “Happily, there was one aspect of the question that gave Australia a tremendous advantage over other competitors. That was our immunity from the most important bovine diseases – foot and mouth disease and rinderpest. We could not take too many precautions to keep the country free of those scourges.” Just how true do those words remain today!
We have uncovered advertising material the veterinary hospital and laboratory Dr Rudduck built in the late 1930’s at Moorabbin. He referred to it as Rudducks Veterinary Service Station, and it catered for all animal types. The nature of services offered included:
• Disease and Injury Treatment
• Bathing and Stripping
• Isolation Ward
• Lethal Chambers
Dr. Rudduck wrote:
Veterinary Service Station
“In response to thousands of requests from animal lovers throughout Australia, this Veterinary Service Station has been erected and equipped at enormous expense. The Station is the largest of its kind in Australia and compares favourably with any in the world. It covers an area of seven acres and is staffed by experts. Every facility for the efficient care of your dog from puppyhood to old age is provided. Sympathetic and scientific treatment is given to every case, and the Service Station is indeed a boon to animal lovers.”
All Animals Treated
“The Veterinary Service Station is also equipped to take care of horses, cattle, sheep, poultry, and all domestic pets. There is a separate compartment for each class of animal, and the same facilities as are enumerated above are available for the various types.”
Rudducks Dog Medicines
“A complete range of dog medicines and serums are manufactured by the staff attached to this Service Station. These remedies have an Australian-wide reputation and are obtainable from all the leading chemists and dog emporiums throughout Victoria. The Service Station is conveniently located on Point Nepean Road within 3 minutes from the Moorabbin Railway Station. An ambulance is available to meet all trains at the Moorabbin Station.”
The above sketch on the right is an illustration of the Service Station. The site is now occupied by Ikea Furniture on the Nepean Highway in Moorabbin.
The advertisement below the sketch shows Dr Rudduck’s specialised services for greyhounds, advertising products in the Rudducks dog shop located in the Causeway, Melbourne. The above advertisement was placed in the Melbourne Sporting Globe on Feb 7, 1951.
Dr Rudduck had 5 sons, 2 of whom were veterinarians. There was Dr Harold Rudduck (junior) and Dr Geoffrey Rudduck. We believe Dr Geoffrey was the first television vet appearing as Dr Peter on Channel 7’s Happy Hammond show in the 1960’s.
Dr Harold was succeeded in the business by one of the other sons, Mr Herbert C Rudduck who was a Master of Shipping. He had a son Mr Paul Rudduck.
The business was traded on successfully throughout the 1960’s with Mr Herbert C. Rudduck being joined by his son Paul who was actively involved in “showing dogs”. In 1969 Mr Herbert C Rudduck agreed to separate the pet products business from the large animal business. Mr Paul Rudduck established Rudducks Wholesale Pet Supplies and took charge of all formulations that related to companion animals.
The above 1967 Rudducks Retail Price List provides an interesting snapshot of some of the products manufactured by Rudducks along with distribution of Bayer and Nicholas products.
Dr Rudduck was well served by a loyal group of employees, with a notable and existing link to our company today. Mr Brian Bridger commenced work for Dr Rudduck in the Lonsdale Street building in 1951. While formally retired now, Brian periodically delivers a small quantity of cardboard boxes to Rudducks Keysborough premises which we use for packing of stock orders. Brian remains passionate about the work Dr Rudduck undertook for the benefit of animals and Australia. Clearly a committed and loyal employee! Brian, we thank you for the information you have made available to enable us to present the Rudducks story.
Mr Paul Rudduck managed the wholesale pet supplies business throughout the 1970’s and in 1979 the business was acquired by Mr Henk Van Der Helm (pictured below).
Henk immediately set about broadening the pet accessories segment of the business and significantly increased the level of importing. In addition to product from Asia, Henk started to seek out quality international brands. The development of the business to its present state had commenced.
Henk was no stranger to the pet world. He was breeding and showing Dutch barge dogs, “The Keeshond” and was owner and CEO of “Pure Breeds Dog Shop” at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, and the animal freight business, “Dogtainers”. Both these businesses were sold to enable Henk to dedicate his time to Rudducks development.
It was not only the development of Rudducks that Henk committed to. Through his efforts (supported by a small number of others in the industry), Rudducks became a founding member of PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Committee), now renamed PIAA (Pet Industry Association of Australia). Throughout PIAA’s development, Henk served 3 terms as President and spent numerous hours contributing to various committee roles. He helped oversee the transformation of PIAA from a voluntary secretariat to the fully funded executive body PIAA is today supporting all segments of the Pet Industry and contributing actively to a number of pet issues at Government level.
Henk was joined in the business in 1987 by his wife Vanessa following the sale of her retail pet business, Paws, Claws & Fins. Vanessa had also shown dogs and was actively interested in the care and welfare of all animals.
Vanessa undertook a number of roles in the business throughout the development of Rudducks and extended the work she did in support of PIAA. Apart from the great support she provided Henk, she has given tireless hours to PIAA at both a committee and general organisational level. A particular note can be made of Vanessa’s successful work and development of the annual Pet Industry Expo.
The commitment both Henk and Vanessa have made to the pet industry was acknowledged at the 2004 Pet Expo held in Melbourne in October when they jointly received the PIONEER award in recognition of their commitment to the Australian Pet Industry.
The business was incorporated on 1st July 1985 into its present structure trading as Rudducks Wholesale Pet Supplies. On 23rd June 1997 we changed our name to Rudducks Pty Ltd.
The family affair at Rudducks was far from its conclusion. Having brought his family to Australia from Holland when his son Henk was aged 10, Leo Van Der Helm joined Rudducks in 1981 as Operations Manager – Warehouse & Manufacturing, reporting to his son.
It is hard to imagine how Rudducks could ever have an employee more committed to Rudducks or to their role as was Leo. His dedication to quality and efficiency in production enabled the further development of Rudducks manufacturing facilities.
His personal integrity endured him to his fellow employees and customers alike. After 20 years of service Leo left Rudducks due to a terminal illness. His time with Rudducks will always be remembered for his great contribution and as something “special”.
The family unit moved to another level when Henk’s mother Nell joined her husband Leo on the team. Nell became a member of the manufacturing unit and from the time she arrived until her retirement, she gave the only way she new and the way she and Leo had lived their lives, with everything.
To this day Nell talks with great pride about the great work Henk did with Rudducks and the absolute enjoyment Leo got from being part of it. Simply the truth!
Henk was joined in the business in 1987 by Mike Cusack. Mike, a Chartered Accountant had been close friends with Henk since their meeting in 1974 in a student registrant line. Mike was Henk’s consulting accountant when Rudducks was purchased from Paul Rudduck in 1979, and after an invitation from Henk took an investment in the business.
When Henk and Vanessa decided they wished to retire, Mike and a small group of partners acquired the balance of the business. The year was 2004 which saw Rudducks complete its 100th year in pet products in Australia. It was also the year which saw Henk complete his 25th year with the business.
We commence the second century of Rudducks development in Australia with a passionate intensity in developing vision demonstrated by the founder Dr Harold Rudduck. We commit to that development from the platform of integrity demonstrated by the Van Der Helm family over the past 25 years.
To the next 100 years and on!