London is a city of many faces. Some people thrive on its energy and dynamism, others find it impersonal and isolating. It is a city of contrasts and ideas. The stark contrast of luxurious extravagance on blatant deprivation, so commonplace here, gave two vets an idea. They decided to use their vet skills to support some of the most socially marginalised pet owners. This was the birth of StreetVet, back in late 2016, and London proved the perfect teacher and testing ground on which to grow. The tremendous need for StreetVet in this city was the wind beneath our wings in those early days: the adrenaline rush of explaining who we are to a homeless pet owner for the first time followed by the endorphins from making a positive difference quickly became addictive. We made mistakes in London and learned from those experiences, but we also made new friends who showed us what works. Our shared experiences shaped the StreetVet ethos and operational blueprint, which we now replicate in all new branches.
StreetVet London now has over 50 active vet and nurse volunteers with over 200 registered patients. Our very first regular station started in Camden under the guidance of a local grassroots organisation called Streets Kitchen. A team of StreetVet vets and nurses are out on the streets of Camden every week, so far without fail. The importance of this weekly presence is now embedded in the StreetVet modus operand: it allows us to build rapport with owners and address their pets’ health concerns as quickly as possible. Soon after establishing out presence in Camden we joined Streets Kitchen and Refugee Community Kitchen in Hackney, where we first met Andy and Bailey Who are now local celebrities. Then our Clapham station was launched, thanks to the support and facilities provided by the Ace of Clubs. As volunteers gained skills and confidence in the art of StreetVetting we took on more independent outreach to regularly cover Soho, Shoreditch and parts of Hertfordshire. In each of these places we met new owners and their pets who made lasting impressions on us, slowly replacing thrill of an introduction with the pleasure of meeting a friend. Each station also gave us superstar patients who we struggle not to consider “favourites”: lovable big boy Benson, cheeky Rain and Mist, brave Buddy, playful Kaiser, regal Buffy and of course our very own miracle dog Sally.
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London has introduced us to many new faces. It is our bedrock and our incubator. Someday we hope to not be needed here, but for now it is our motivator.