Veterinary charity in the United Kingdom
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) is a veterinary charity in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin to provide care for sick and injured animals of the poor. It is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, carrying out more than one million free veterinary consultations a year, and was up to 2009 the largest private employer of fully qualified veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK, only those living within the PDSA’s catchment areas can use their services.
- 1 Foundation and development
- 2 PDSA Dickin Medal
- 3 Eligibility requirements
- 4 Areas of operation
- 5 Celebrity Ambassadors
- 6 Roobarb and Custard Partnership
- 7 Pet Fit Club
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Foundation and development
During World War I, animal welfare pioneer Maria Dickin worked to improve the dreadful state of animal health in the Whitechapel area of London. She wanted to open a clinic where East Enders living in poverty could receive free treatment for their sick and injured animals. Despite widespread scepticism, she opened her free “dispensary” in a Whitechapel basement on Saturday 17 November 1917. It was an immediate success and she was soon forced to find larger premises.
Within six years, Maria Dickin had designed and equipped her first horse-drawn clinic, and soon a fleet of mobile dispensaries was established. PDSA vehicles soon became a common sight throughout the country. Eventually, PDSA’s role was defined by two Acts of Parliament, in 1949 and 1956, that continue to govern its activities today.
PDSA Dickin Medal
Maria Dickin instituted the Dickin Medal in 1943 to acknowledge outstanding acts of bravery by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units. It has become recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross, and is administered by PDSA. The PDSA created a second animal bravery award, the PDSA Gold Medal, in 2002, which is now recognised as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
Today, treatment is only available to the pets of those in receipt of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit and who live in one of the charity’s ‘catchment areas’. For those eligible, treatment for sick and injured animals is free of charge. Recently, the PDSA started providing eligible pet owners with preventive services such as neutering, vaccinations and microchipping. These services are the only treatments that are not free; however, they are offered at cost price.
Although there is no cost for all treatments except for those of a preventive nature, PDSA asks clients to make a donation of whatever they can afford towards the treatment of their animal.
Currently, PDSA is able to offer its services to 75% of eligible people, and has plans to increase this to 80% over the coming year.
In May 2009 the PDSA began requesting a donation on checking the animal in for treatment.
Areas of operation
A PDSA charity shop in Birmingham, England, seen in April 2019
PDSA operates throughout Great Britain through animal hospitals and practices; a vast network of charity shops support the organisation. It has one animal hospital in Northern Ireland, the catchment area of which covers much of the area East of the Bann. Although further hospitals are not currently planned for that region, some services through private clinics may be offered, and a charity shop is due to open in March 2007 in Lisburn. The charity’s Head Office is based in Telford, Shropshire.
In 1937, a branch of the PDSA was founded in District Six, South Africa, which at the time was a poverty-stricken area of Cape Town. In 1988, the organization became autonomous but maintains a strong link with the mother society in the United Kingdom and a great deal of information is exchanged between them.
In October 1938 the PDSA held a Twenty-First Birthday Dinner at the Holborn Restaurant in London, attended by Mrs Dickin. There were words from abroad from France (Mr Horne), Dutch East Indies (Mr Cronin), Romania (Mr Smith), and Greece (Mr Hurle).
Roobarb and Custard Partnership
In 2012 Bulldog Licensing, the brand licensing agency for Roobarb & Custard, pledged a long-term link with PDSA to help raise £1m. The characters have already appeared on a range of PDSA T-shirts, modelled and supported by singer and TV presenter Alesha Dixon.
Pet Fit Club
In 2005 the PDSA launched its Pet Fit Club competition, in order to help battle the problem of pet obesity. The annual contest sees a group of overweight dogs, cats and rabbits embark on a strict six-month diet and exercise programme, specially tailored by PDSA vets and nurses. At the end of the programme the best-performing pet will be crowned slimmer of the year. In 2015, small furry pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice were allowed to take part in the competition for the first time.
- PDSA Web site
- Intelligent Giving profile of PDSA
- “Maria Dickin: founder of the PDSA”. Woman’s Hour. BBC Radio 4. 24 December 2007.