‘I wouldn’t be able to look after my dog without Hammersmith Blue Cross. They are always there for you!’ – Mabel, a grateful owner
It goes without saying that the members of the clinical team at Hammersmith’s Blue Cross Hospital love animals. Take Pet Health Advisor, Amy James: ‘Recently, we looked after a bulldog who was in a poor condition. He was disfigured, with a juttingout jaw, but he had so much love. I wanted to take him home, but you must be realistic – and I already have two cats and a dog.’
Amy joined Blue Cross’s Hammersmith Hospital, which is tucked away in Argyll Place off King Street, three years ago. ‘I started as a volunteer, helping out on reception and as a hospital assistant. Now I work full-time with the nurses and receptionists, dispensing medication, processing blood tests and samples, booking appointments and setting up surgical kits for the vets. ’Of course, we do see some very sad cases, but this is such a rewarding job.’
Blue Cross traces its roots to 1897 when the Our Dumb Friends League was founded to care for working horses on London’s streets. In 1906 the organisation opened the world’s first animal hospital in Victoria, the Hammersmith Hospital was established in 1922 and, in 1958, the charity changed name to Blue Cross. Then, as now, it offers free veterinary services to domestic pets whose owners receive means-tested benefits (check the website for eligibility), runs nationwide re-homing and education programmes and provides short-term pet foster care.
By the end of August this year Hammersmith Blue Cross had 2883 pets on its register and had carried out 5,171 consultations and helped 2346 pets. ‘We’re like a GP surgery combined with an A&E,’ explains Amy. ‘Although this isn’t a walk-in operation, if your pet has been attacked or injured in an accident you can bring them in as an emergency.
‘The majority of our patients are cats and dogs, but we also see rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and, this year for some reason, lots of ferrets [Blue Cross doesn’t treat wildlife and exotic animals]. Our vets perform all the basic operations. Owners have to pay for flea and worming treatments and vaccinations and, for all other procedures, we ask for a contribution towards the costs. If an animal has to be monitored overnight, our ambulance takes them to the Victoria hospital.’
Blue Cross receives no government or lottery funding, relying entirely on bequests and private and corporate donations (there is a Donate link on the website). ‘We’re grateful that people remember us in their wills and we have some very kind locals here in W6,’ says Amy. ‘In the last few weeks two “walk-ins” gave donations of £500 and £300 and a lovely gentleman comes in every month with £15-£20 change that he has saved.
‘We always need volunteers to help at the Hospital with tasks such as dog walking and driving blood samples to Victoria. Also, from 16-20 December we will be selling Christmas dog and cat goodie bags. We did that last year and it was a great success – it’s a fantastic way to help us to help pets stay happy and healthy.’
Blue Cross Hospital Hammersmith
Argyle Place, King Street,
Hammersmith W6 0RQ