Students from The University of Nottingham who provide free veterinary care for the pets of homeless and vulnerably housed people are fundraising for a new specially-equipped mobile clinic.
Over the six years since the launch of the Vets in the Community scheme, the student volunteers from the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have seen more than 1,400 consultations from their base in the former office of the Nottingham branch of the Big Issue.
But since the charity’s recent relocation, the service has been operating from temporary accommodation while fundraising for a trailer which will serve as a dedicated mobile clinic for vulnerable people throughout Nottingham who have been previously unable to reach the clinic.
Supporters donations from events such as the Robin Hood Half Marathon have brought the service within a hair’s breadth of reaching its £30,000 target – but it has now launched a Crowdfunding appeal to ask for people’s help in raising the final £1,500 needed to buy the trailer.
Companionship and security
Dr Jenny Stavisky, clinical lecturer in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science said: “Pet ownership is a common bond and opens a conversation with some of the most marginalised people in our society. We work hard to make the clinic a welcoming space, with hot drinks and cake always on offer, and time to listen to people’s concerns.
“Our clients struggle to access other forms of veterinary care, even when eligible for charitable services such as the PDSA. Where an animal needs a treatment that is more intensive than we can offer, we can advise and help people to access these other services.”
Claudia, Treasure-Chapman, undergraduate student and treasurer for Vets in the Community, added: “We know how much our service is valued by our clients and are very proud of what we have achieved so far. As homelessness continues to increase, so do the demands on Vets in the Community. Our service could not run without donations and we are appealing for people to show their support for this very worthy cause - every donation, no matter how small, will take us closer to achieving our goal.”
Homelessness is at an all-time high nationally, with Nottingham being the second fastest-growing area for rough sleeping in the UK. Pet ownership is common among homeless people, and provides a vital source of companionship, support and security in an otherwise uncertain and unstable situation. Emerging research on homelessness and the human-animal bond shows that these pets may act as a form of therapy for their owners.
At fortnightly clinics, the service sees clients from all walks of life, some of whom are struggling with dependency issues, disabilities or poor physical and mental health. Ensuring that their pets are healthy and protected from disease is a source of enormous comfort for these vulnerable people. Additionally, the service can provide proof of microchipping, vaccination and parasite prevention, which has helped some of clients find housing that will accept both them and their pet.
The clinic also provides free neutering vouchers and important small items such as collars, coats, blankets, pet food, and toys, the majority of which are donated by supporters. While most of patients are dogs, the clinic does sometimes see cats and the occasional rabbit, ferret or hamster.
Experience and inspiration
The clinic works with a number of local and national organisations, including hostels, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, a rape crisis service and services for those escaping domestic violence.
One service user, who took dog Pepper along to the clinic, said: “It’s so much help for me because I couldn’t afford to take her to the vets. She just gets so much from it and she’s such a healthy dog, everyone always tells me how good she looks… She’s a support to me, she really is – she’s marvellous.”
Vets in the Community has inspired and collaborated with similar projects around the UK, including Streetvet, Streetpaws, All4Paws and Trusty Paws. Additionally, as every Nottingham vet student must attend a clinic, every year 150 new vets graduate with this experience and inspiration, to take forward into the communities in which they work.
Anyone who would like to support the Vets in the Community project can make a donation at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/vetsinthecommunity or follow its Facebook page for more information.
People can also get behind Vets in the Community’s bid to be supported by the Aviva Fund, which would contribute to the new trailer and help to cover the day-to-day running costs of the clinic, by voting for the project online at https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/project/view/4-1973
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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.