Vets in the community

29 May 2013 15:07:05.590

PA 178/13

The University of Nottingham has established a student-led veterinary clinic to deliver healthcare to the pets of homeless and vulnerably housed people living in the city.

Under the supervision of suitably qualified staff, veterinary students will provide health checks and treatment for simple conditions such as ear and eye infections. Animals brought to the clinics will also receive preventive care, such as vaccinations and flea and worm treatments.

While benefiting pet owners, the initiative is also set to provide students with practical experience and the opportunity to build on their communication and organisation skills.

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Multiple benefits

Jenny Stavisky, a Research Fellow in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, explained: “For the students this is not just about the veterinary work. It is about running this organisation, ordering the drugs, managing the clinic, and community involvement, so it is a lot more than just ‘being a vet’ for a couple of hours.  

“The experience will also challenge students’ preconceptions of what pet ownership is about, and give them a different perspective on the human-animal bond. This will complement the embedded professionalism which is a key component of their course.”

Jenny continued: “We envisage that this interaction with some of the least privileged members of society, and experience to undertake pro bono work will help to develop their sense of social responsibility, while contributing to their personal and professional development.”

A unique experience

By allowing students to manage the project themselves, staff also expect those involved to further develop their communication, management and organisational skills.

Fourth year veterinary student Rebecca Fallman is one of the volunteers who has benefited from working at the clinic.

She said: “We held our pilot session in November, with the seventh session taking place on 29 May. People have already brought their animals back for follow up injections, which shows that they have found us to be approachable while understanding the importance of the health provisions provided.

“The clinics have also given us the chance to improve our communication skills and appreciate the different bond that people have with their animals. This work is very rewarding — by providing simple advice and treatment, we have seen a visible difference in a short space of time.”

A big issue

The success of the project has also been attributed to its location, after The Big Issue agreed to play host, ensuring that pet owners would not be intimidated by their surroundings.

Holly O’Connor, East Midlands Regional Manager at the magazine, explained that the clinic has overcome barriers, including expense and paperwork, which are known to put homeless people off accessing veterinary treatment in the past.

She added: “For people who are rough sleeping, the sense of protection and companionship they get from their animals is irreplaceable. But Big Issue vendors often worry that they will be judged if their animal has something wrong with it, or hasn’t been treated properly for fleas or worms.

“When people come down to the clinic they will see friendly faces and know that they will not be judged, which is why I think in recent months we have seen a big take up at the clinics.”

Key funding

While the Big Issue have provided the venue, the project has also benefited from a £10,000 grant from The University of Nottingham’s Cascade Fund.

Dogs Trust has also provided both logistical support and donations in kind, while both the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and have provided immense support for the project. Other donations of vital supplies have come from MSD Animal Health, Cats Protection and Rushcliffe Veterinary Centre.

After hearing about the Vets in the Community project, the Cascade donor panel were quick to provide funding for the initiative, in the belief that it not only meets a need in the local community, but has great potential to take veterinary students out of their comfort zones, working in an environment they were unlikely to have experienced before.

The Fund, which provides grants for projects which will enhance student experience and benefit communities, has provided over £1.2 million for 130 student initiatives since its launch in 2007.

Find out more about the project, on the Vets in the Community website.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom , China and Malaysia . It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news… 

Story credits

For more informationplease email Jenny Stavisky, Research Fellow at The University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at

Harry Waddle

Harry Waddle - Students Communications Officer

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 823 2353 Location: University Park

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