Centre takes good care of dogs entrusted to it - Veterinary Practice
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Centre takes good care of dogs entrusted to it

CHRISTINE SHIELD is impressed by the work and facilities of the Dogs Trust centre in Leeds

THE Dogs Trust (formerly National Canine Defence League) is Britain’s largest dog re-homing organisation and represents the “quality” end of the market.

The charity takes great care to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the dogs in its care, and is known for its promise to never euthanase a healthy dog.

With an annual turnover of more than £50 million and a nationwide network of modern, well-appointed re-homing centres, it is well-equipped to fulfil its mission.

Of the 17 re-homing centres, eight have a veterinary suite in which local practices provide clinical services: Leeds is unique in having a vet employed there three days per week. I was asked to provide locum cover and took the opportunity to find out more.

John Wannop is the vet there, taking on the role after selling his practice. He says, “I enjoy working at Dogs Trust very much. My previous practice did the veterinary work for the Dogs Trust’s old centre in Leeds. It’s nice to continue the association with suchaworthwhile organisation.”

John works alongside VN Vicky Tonks, who finds the job more rewarding and less stressful than a busy private practice.

Every dog which is taken into the centre is checked by the vet as soon as possible and is weighed, vaccinated, microchipped, de-fleaed and wormed, treated for any preexisting medical conditions and neutered. A DAP collar is applied in an attempt to reduce stress levels.

The vet checks each dog again before it is re-homed, and the new owners are invited to bring it back to the centre for a second dose of vaccine, if that has not already been given, and for any medical conditions that may arise in the first week or two.

Cases of neglect

While the majority of the dogs which are taken in are healthy, they also see cases of severe neglect, animals brought in by dog wardens or relinquished by their owners and suffering from far more advanced disease than is often seen in general first opinion practice. Skin diseases predominate in this respect, and in particular I saw far more Demodectic mange there than I would expect to see elsewhere.

The veterinary suite at Leeds is a self-contained unit of four rooms. A good sized foyer houses a set of scales and useful temporary storage, and acts as an “air-lock” to help prevent escapes, although the perimeter of the building’s immediate surrounds is dog-proof.

The consulting and preparation area is spacious and equipped with a lift table,a tub table and dental equipment, a scrub sink plus sink for cleaning equipment, a computer and plenty of storage.

A ward of kennels houses patients scheduled for surgery or in need of medical care, with three walk-in kennels and two banks of smaller cages. The fourth room is, of course, the operating theatre. There is no x-ray machine nor any specialised equipment, but most routine procedures can be performed with the facilities available, and dogs requiring anything else are sent to a local practice which also provides out-of-hours cover.

A radio system keeps everyone on site in touch with one another and seems to work better than an internal telephone system (although that is in place too). Staff can be called by name or by department, and as all messages can be heard on every radio, everyone has a good idea of what is going on around the centre.

Daily list

The computer system prints out a daily list of the animals requiring veterinary attention and the team use the radios to contact the various departments (new arrivals, re-homing, puppies, etc.) to check for any changes to the lists and say when they are ready for the individual dogs to be brought for treatment.

High staffing levels and a plentiful supply of willing volunteer dog walkers at the centre enable each dog to have lots of individual attention, being trained, socialised and leadexercised as well as being kept clean and fed.

Extensive fields and secure paddocks on site enable plenty of free exercise, in groups or separately, according to the dog’s temperament. As well as taking care of the dogs, staff spend time giving advice to existing and prospective dog owners and making home visits.

The effort that goes into training is readily apparent: dogs that have been in residence for more than a day or two are clearly very aware of just what the staff keep in the treat-pouches on their belts, and most will sit or present a paw very promptly when asked.

I was very impressed to note that all of the dogs are known to each staff member by name, they are not just “that Staffy with the black eye-patch in kennel three”.

All in all, I think that a stray dog could do a lot worse than find itself in the care of the Dogs Trust.

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