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Joanna McAleer spoke to the volunteer team behind homeless vet clinics Trusty Paws and found out how they can help you and your dog.
Dogs: they are man’s best friend, famed for their loyalty and their unconditional love. And many homeless people have an unbreakable bond with their dog – a companion who has seen them through the hard times.
But they also can make things more complicated. Many hostels, shelters and day centres won’t accept dogs, which can mean you can struggle to find emergency accommodation when homeless. And finding extra resources for food and vet bills can be very challenging. Looking after a dog is expensive.
In recognition of that, a group of vet students, concerned about homelessness and wanting to use their skills to help, set up the Trusty Paws clinic two years ago in Glasgow. A monthly drop-in is now also available in West London.
This free clinic is available to all homeless people. It is staffed by students though overseen by a qualified vet. Services provided by Trusty Paws include free vaccinations, microchipping and treatment of nasties like fleas and worms, as well as treatment for unwell dogs. Essentials such as collars and coats are sometimes available too.
Founder of Trusty Paws Ruby Shorcock says that most people who come to the clinic with their dogs are sleeping rough or in hostels and temporary accommodation. “Everyone has an interesting story to tell,” she adds. She was inspired to set up the clinic after finding out about a similar one in Nottingham and was shocked at the difficulties homeless people had in finding accommodation that would accept their beloved pets.
Now in her final year of Vet School, Ruby is helping other universities set up similar practices, and approached Charlotte Winterburn, who was studying at London’s Royal Vet College, to encourage her to get involved. Charlotte explained that most dogs she has seen at the clinic are well looked after, but many benefit from flea and worming treatments, neutering and preventative treatments such as vaccinations.
Numbers at the monthly clinic in West London are still not high, but the vets enjoy meeting regular visitors such as staffies Milo and Trixie, who have visited several times for check-ups and vaccinations. What’s more, while dogs are in the consulting room, the West London Mission are more than happy to give help and advice to the owners. “ I think is a lovely combination, as Trusty Paws can help the animals whilst the owners can seek help for themselves if required,” says Charlotte.
“It’s lovely to see regular faces at the clinic and it would be fantastic to see more people coming through the doors.”
Ruby agrees. “The clinics are friendly and informal,” she says. “We are there to help and not judge.” Why not give it a try?
Glasgow: Monthly pop up clinic in the Simon Community drop-in centre:
472 Ballater St, Glasgow, G5 0QW. Tel: 0141 418 6980
West London Mission day centre, 19 Thayer St, London W1U 2QJ. Tel: 020 7935 6179
For the time and date of the next monthly Trusty Paws clinic, check the Facebook page: facebook.com/trustypaws
Help with vet’s bills is also available from the Dog’s Trust Hope Project: www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/hope-project
You can also check out their guide on how to care for your dog: www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/