GHP Q4 2018

14 GHP / Q4 2018 , StreetVet provides a free, accessible veterinary service to homeless and vulnerably housed pet owners. In October, the registered vet practice were recognised in GHP’s 2018 Animal Health Awards programme. Following this win, we spoke to StreetVet’s Sam Joseph, who offered an insight into the practices’s remarkable work. Bringing Compassion to Homeless Pet Owners Across Great Britain Established in 2016, StreetVet was created to help tackle a dire need: to help people experiencing homelessness to take care of their pet companions. To start the interview, Sam offers a brief overview of StreetVet’s history as they started serving London’s homeless population. “What started out as a small team of vets and nurses working alongside Street Kitchen performing outreach in the London community a few times per week has taken on a life of its own over the last 18 months. To date, we have helped care for over 500 street dogs – and a few cats! We have vaccinated and microchipped; treated for fleas and protected against lungworm; prescribed pain relief and helped fight infections; and sometimes just sat and listened.” StreetVet was inspired by the bond between a homeless man and his dog. “Victims of the UK homelessness epidemic often have scant supports, except for, in a growing number of cases, the companionship of their pets. Some have had their pets since before losing their homes. Others had the responsibility of pet ownership thrust upon them. Irrespective, the bond between many homeless people and their dogs is profound, such that their pets’ wellbeing is a life-shaping priority. Now, our teams of over 300 volunteers are active in nine cities across the South of England with more to come in 2019.” In order to deliver this service, they rely entirely on the generosity of the veterinary industry and the public, especially animal lovers and those who recognise the tremendous value of the human- animal bond. It is the latter that forms the backbone of the service and defines the internal culture of the non-profit organisation. “Being homeless does not take away someone’s ability or desire to love, and to want to receive unconditional love in return. For many in such desperate circumstances, a pet is the only sure-fire way to receive that and they will often forgo housing and other services in order to keep and provide for their pets. These animals can be the sole light of someone’s existence, and do we have a right to deny or condemn them for that, based on a passing glance and a host of assumptions?” “Supporting StreetVet in its aim to provide free veterinary care for these much-loved dogs is an active and fantastic way to improve the lives of both the dog and the owner. It helps bring a little more compassion to the streets of Great Britain.” Changing the conversation slightly to address the safety element of their work, Sam explains that – above all else - StreetVet’s volunteers are experienced, capable and trained to a high standard. This expertise has been the core driver behind the non-profit organisation’s incredible success over the last two years, with more of the same projected for the foreseeable future. “There are a wide range of risks associated with volunteer work on the streets and the safety of our volunteers is of upmost importance. Volunteers will never perform outreach on the street alone are usually with at least two other colleagues and members of our partner organisations.” “We never carry controlled drugs in our backpacks and always remain in well-lit and busy locations. Other techniques to ensure the AH180017 safety of our volunteers, their patients and our clients include muzzling unpredictable dogs, as well as approaching them from the side rather than the front. We dispose of sharps in designated sharps bins and only perform routine procedures on the streets. Anything that requires sedation or more advanced techniques will of course be referred to local vet practices.” Finally, as the interview comes to a close, Sam comments on the future of StreetVet as it moves into the new year: “We plan to continue to expand StreetVet into cities across the country that are in need of our service.” Company: StreetVet Address: 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom, WC2H 9JQ Website: Photos by Robin Trow Photography