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French vet students treat homeless pets in free clinic

Students at a French veterinary school have set up a voluntary scheme to offer free veterinary care and treatment for pets belonging to homeless people, or those without the means to pay.

The group of 90 students at the veterinary school in Lyon* (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) do not offer the care at the school itself, but at a small number of homeless shelters that allow animals. They are supervised by a veterinary professor at all times, reports news source FranceInfo.

More than 200 dogs and cats have now been vaccinated or looked after by the students as part of the scheme, including for conditions that could have been passed onto humans if they had not been treated.

People who are homeless (or “sans domicile fixe”, SDF - no fixed address) are invited to use the service, as are people who are unemployed, or otherwise 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."

Student Lucas Carreras explained: "A homeless person isn't going to pay for a vet, so we are here to be the intermediary between major care, and minor care."

One woman, named Muriel, now uses the scheme to vaccinate her cats after she lost her job when the factory she worked at closed down. She told FranceInfo: “I could afford it before. But now that I’m having trouble, [I come here because] it is free and I don’t have a lot of money...I don’t want to give up my cats. Now that I have them, I have to go all the way [and look after them].”

Another user, Doun, comes to the clinic with his border collie, Bandy. Doun found Bandy in the street three years ago, and adopted him after seeing he had been beaten and underfed by his then-owners.

But Doun later lost his job after his wife and son died in a drowning accident, and now describes his pet as his sole companion.

He told FranceInfo: “I don’t ask for anything, I don’t even want RSA [French unemployment benefit Revenu de Solidarité Active] anymore, I want nothing. I want no trouble - except that people look after my dog when he needs it. That is the most important thing. That he is in good health.”

The scheme also means that homeless or low-income people that come into the shelters to use the vet clinics are more likely to receive help and support from the shelter's own services, if necessary.

*The full name for the Lyon veterinary school is the Institut National d'Enseignement Supérieur et de Recherche en Alimentation, Santé Animale, Sciences Agronomiques et de l'Environnement. It is often known as VetAgro Sup.

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