WINNER: Vets in the Community - Pets need vets
In the UK around 320,000 people are homeless, with that number on the rise. Many homeless people have pets, which can be a source of support and companionship. Their pets are important to them and have been shown to improve mental health, reduce social isolation and even prevent relapse into addiction and offending. However, access to veterinary care is a significant problem.
At Vets in the Community (ViC), we provide free care for pets belonging to homeless and vulnerably housed people. Under supervision from qualified staff, veterinary students run the service, providing vaccinations, flea and worm treatment, microchipping, and general care. Clients are welcomed with a hot drink and a home-baked cake. Donations of pet food, toys and bedding are distributed alongside neuter vouchers from partner organisations. Referrals come from homelessness services including the Big Issue, drop-in centres, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, rape crisis, women’s aid, and the police.
We train hundreds of veterinary students in compassionate care and have inspired similar projects at other UK vet schools. We also conduct research on pet ownership and homelessness to inform Government policy.
Top 3 learnings: