Maria Dickin saw terrible suffering among London's pets and working animals during the first World War. She also saw that the root cause was not cruelty but poverty, and exactly 100 years ago she put up this sign in Whitechapel:
Bring your sick animals.
Do not let them suffer.
All animals treated.
All treatment free.
The queue was immediate and very long. She was soon forced to find larger premises, and the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals was born. Within six years this extraordinary woman had also designed and equipped her first horse-drawn clinic, and a fleet of mobile dispensaries began travelling the streets to transport sick animals or treat them on the spot.
To celebrate its hundredth birthday, PDSA will bring to the Lord Mayor's Show a horse-drawn dispensary just like the ones that used to travel around London. The carriage has been painstakingly restored over six weeks by the Wellington Carriage Company and given a sparkling new livery, which you can see condensed into a minute or so in the video below. It will be pulled by Sidney, 16 year old Shire Horse winner of over 300 county shows, and the driver will be wearing the correct period veterinary uniform.
You may also have heard of the PDSA Dickin Medal, recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross. During World War II it was awarded to the London police horses Olga, Upstart and Regal for their gallantry (and also to many dogs and pigeons, and one valiant ship's cat). PDSA has also given its Order of Merit to 10 police horses for protecting the public, police and fire fighters.
All those brave animals are commemorated by the two Metropolitan Police horses Intrepid and Judge (having a run out above), who will walk ahead of the restored carriage in the Lord Mayor's procession. They will be flanked by the charity's dedicated vets and nurses and the carriage will be followed by its very modern equivalent the PetCheck vehicle, which tours the country offering advice to pet owners and health checks for dogs.
100 years later, PDSA is UK’s leading veterinary charity. Since 1917 they have provided 100 million free treatments to 20 million pets in need. The PDSA mission is to ensure wellbeing for every pet throughout their life by preventing illness, educating the public and treating pets. They are funded entirely by public donations and get no HM Government or National Lottery funding.
To find out more about PDSA's work with sick and injured pets or to make a donation visit pdsa.org.uk
If you would like to donate £5 today please text PDSA17 £5 to 70070. Your donation will help a pet in need.