An interest in ‘rehoming’ medicine led Louisa Rance to join the veterinary team at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. She has worked there for eight years.
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What made you join Battersea Dogs and Cats Home?
Being a vet in an animal rescue charity appealed to me for a number of reasons. The main one was the opportunity to apply my veterinary training to the healthcare and welfare of lost and abandoned cats and dogs. From a clinical point of view, I was interested in the challenges that ‘rehoming’ medicine entailed compared with dealing with owned animals. As a rescue and rehoming centre, Battersea's focus is on identifying and managing health problems in dogs or cats that could compromise their chances of being successfully rehomed.
The opportunity to work at a famous, prestigious charity like Battersea Dogs and Cats Home was also too good to resist, and being able to work and live in the hustle and bustle of central London was an added bonus.
How did you get to where you are today?
I qualified from Cambridge in 2001. I had ambitions to go into mixed practice but, as a student, I had enjoyed the small animal aspect of the course more than the large animal side. On graduation I went into small animal practice and worked in practices in Dorset, West Sussex and Berkshire.
In retrospect, my experience as a newly graduated vet was typical of many in that it was a huge learning curve – a rollercoaster of highs and lows – but I was well supported in my formative years and obtained a solid grounding in small animal practice that prepared me well for working at Battersea.
What does your job involve?
We provide veterinary care for every animal resident from when it enters the home until it is rehomed and, when appropriate, provide post-rehoming veterinary care.
Every animal receives a full health check on arrival and undergoes an appropriate workup where an underlying disease or condition is suspected. If a long-term or ongoing condition is identified, we will discuss this in full with potential new owners so that they can be properly informed in their decision to take the animal on.
Because we have a high density of cats and dogs with an unknown or dubious vaccination history, management of infectious disease in the home is a big part of the veterinary surgeon's role.
We also run an extremely busy theatre, in which a significant proportion of the surgeries are neuterings; however, it still offers a varied caseload to keep a keen surgeon such as myself challenged!
What do you like about your job?
Easily the best part of the job is seeing animals rehomed successfully. It is especially rewarding when an animal that arrived in a particularly traumatised or poor state is restored to health and placed in a loving home. The new owners often send photos and updates on how their pet is settling in, which is the icing on the cake.
What do you not like?
The worst aspect of the job is making the decision not to rehome an animal on medical grounds. This is not an issue of cost (I will always be amazed at the extent of existing chronic health problems that people are willing to take on), but one of welfare, where the animal's quality of life will still be poor even in a new home. Even though it's in the animal's best interest, it is never an easy decision to make.
Why is your job important?
Battersea takes on the responsibility for looking after thousands of lost and unwanted pets each year. For whatever reason animals end up at the home, we do our utmost to ensure they are happily rehomed. We provide an important service to society and the veterinary input is an essential part of this process.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
I have to come to realise that it is essential to keep the right balance of pragmatism and compassion in my job. It is so easy to become over-sentimental, which can make decision-making difficult. It's not something I get right all the time, even now.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
In a dispute with an intransigent cat, you will never win.