Tributes have flowed for Harold the alpaca and his four friends who were killed on Thursday morning following an “horrific” dog attack at a Traralgon West property.
The 14-month-old alpaca made headlines last year when crisis support service Lifeline Gippsland used Harold as a mascot to encourage people to have a conversation about mental health on the streets of Morwell, Moe and Traralgon.
Harold’s owner, Louise Lazarus, said she was “devastated” after learning five of her alpacas had been found dead in the front paddock of a friend’s farm.
The alpacas were taken to aged care homes, kindergartens, expos and family days and used to encourage people to know ‘it’s OK to not be OK’.
“[Harold] kissed everyone, he was so kind and cuddly,” Ms Lazarus said.
“He would see a kid on the street and walk really fast up to them and just nuzzle and kiss.
“People would come up and talk to the alpacas and that’s what they did … they made people feel better.”
Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing, who had a visit from Harold at her Commercial Road, Morwell office last year, described him as a source of “incredible joy and connection” for people across the Latrobe Valley.
“There are many people who are incredibly sad, myself included, at the news,” Ms Shing said.
“Interaction and therapy animals are such a crucial part of helping people to reach and connect and this means that whenever something happens to one of the animals that the community has grown to love, the loss is particularly difficult.”
Latrobe City Cr Kellie O’Callaghan said Harold was a lovable and cuddly creature who made an important impression on the community and helped start conversations about mental health wellbeing.
“Harold and his friends helped us connect with the very real understanding of the importance of taking time out,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“As we each stepped outside of our offices, businesses, schools, health services or our general day to day, to meet Harold, we took the opportunity to talk, to share in a joyful and comforting experience.”
Morwell police Constable Marissa Ravenhall, who attended the property following reports of the attack, said it was “a distressing scene”.
“We are all devastated, it’s a sad day but the neighbours who came to console Louise were brilliant,” Constable Ravenhall said.
“They [the alpacas] were well loved by police, it’s upsetting when you have an attack on innocent animals.”
Lifeline Gippsland crisis services manager Annette Davey said Harold would be remembered as a “warm and welcoming fellow who always made his presence felt”.
“He always had a smile and gentle kiss for those who spent time with him, almost intuitively understanding his important role as an ambassador for raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing,” Ms Davey said.
On Friday, Spot the missing alpaca found alive.