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In pictures: French student vets help homeless pets

Trainee vets travel to homeless shelters to care for animals

29 January 2020

Students at a veterinary school have set up a scheme to offer free care and treatment to pets belonging to homeless people or those unable to pay.

The 90 or so students at the Lyon school offer care, under the supervision of a professor, at homeless shelters in the city that allow animals.

Hundreds of dogs and cats have now been looked cared for the scheme. People who are homeless – sans domicile fixe – are invited to use the service, as are people who are unemployed or otherwise unable to pay for normal veterinary treatment.

Co-president of the association, Dispensaire Vétérinaire Etudiant, and second year student, Ana Alkan, 24, said: “The students are getting more and more involved and are not limiting themselves to the healthcare part, they want to do more.

“The programme is integrated into the school curriculum, it is good because it links the theoretical aspect with the practical.”

Most of the animals they take care of are dogs, sometimes cats and rats. They have vaccinated over 200 animals so far.

The group of students at the veterinary school of Lyon, VetAgro Sup, does not offer the care at the school itself, but at five homeless shelters that allow animals, once a week. Students can participate from their first year. They are supervised by a veterinary professor who trained them and watches over at all times.

The initiative first started in 2008 but stopped in 2013 before starting again in 2016.

Ms Alkan said: “We really try to take people in reinsertion to help them and we work with social workers to create a link.”

They also bring snacks and toys for the pets. Ms Alkan added: “Pet owners are very happy. Having a pet is a big responsibility but it can help them. We had a person who got a puppy and stopped taking drugs thanks to his dog. He wanted to be able to look after it.”

People who are homeless are invited to use the service, as are people who unable to pay for normal veterinary treatment for their pets.

Supervising professor Dr Vincent Legros said: “The veterinary acts that we practise here, are preventative medicine, that is relatively technically easy to do. The good thing about this is that [students] meet people who may have difficulties later, and they can take that on board in their profession moving forward.”

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