Vets treat wild an­i­mals as well as do­mes­tic pets


MOST vis­i­tors to our vet­eri­nary prac­tice are cu­ri­ous about the se­lec­tion of an­i­mals in our hospi­tal wards. Most of our pa­tients are cats (in our cat-only ward) and dogs, but as well as the var­i­ous pets, there is of­ten an ex­tra type of pa­tient that of­ten sur­prises peo­ple: wild an­i­mals.

It’s com­mon to find a card­board box in one of our cages, con­tain­ing an in­jured bird or small mam­mal. When mem­bers of the pub­lic find a sick, in­jured or aban­doned wild an­i­mal, they of­ten don’t know what to do. Their lo­cal vet is the ob­vi­ous place to bring such crea­tures, and we’re al­ways happy to help out as best we can. Many vets are happy to give wild an­i­mals the es­sen­tial care that they need free of charge: we recog­nise that they have no own­ers.

In most cases, there are three pos­si­ble out­comes when a wild creature is brought to see us.

First, there may be no se­ri­ous in­juries or ill­ness: the an­i­mal may have a mi­nor in­jury that can be quickly treated, or may sim­ply need a short pe­riod of rest and re­cu­per­a­tion be­fore be­ing re­leased.

Sec­ond, sadly, in some cases an an­i­mal may be so se­verely in­jured that suc­cess­ful treat­ment is not pos­si­ble, and the best way of re­liev­ing their pain is euthana­sia, so that at least they are no longer suf­fer­ing.

Third, the an­i­mal may have in­juries or ill­ness that can be treated, but that re­quire a pro­longed pe­riod of hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and treat­ment. This cat­e­gory is the most chal­leng­ing for vets in prac­tice: our hospi­tal fa­cil­i­ties are not ideal for this type of care. Wild an­i­mals need to have sur­round­ings that are ap­pro­pri­ate for their species and state of health. A busy vet clinic de­signed for pet care can­not meet th­ese needs.

Ideally, such cases should be trans­ferred to a ded­i­cated wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre run by an or­gan­i­sa­tion whose main fo­cus is the care of wildlife. That’s ex­actly what hap­pens in many other coun­tries, but Ire­land is de­fi­cient in this area. In­stead, this work is cur­rently car­ried out by a small num­ber of in­di­vid­ual vol­un­teers and groups. They are un­der re­sourced in terms of money and fa­cil­i­ties, so that they can’t come close to keeping up with the de­mand for their ser­vices.

The good news is that some of the in­di­vid­u­als in this sec­tor have joined to­gether, with am­bi­tious plans to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion for wildlife care in this coun­try. Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ire­land ( was es­tab­lished in 2010, with the aim of sup­port­ing wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tors, and work­ing for the gen­eral ad­vance­ment of wildlife pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in Ire­land.

The group has achieved many goals since it was es­tab­lished. An ex­cel­lent web­site has been set up –­wildlife­mat­ – which of­fers use­ful advice to any mem­bers of the pub­lic, wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tors, and vets who en­counter in­jured or un­well wildlife. Step by step in­ter­ac­tive guides make it easy to work out the best course of ac­tion to take to help the an­i­mal, and the con­tacts page en­ables you to find a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tor or vet near you for advice or as­sis­tance..

WRI has also or­gan­ised reg­u­lar wildlife con­fer­ences which are recog­nised at Vet­eri­nary CPD level, of­fer­ing a show­case for re­search and ed­u­ca­tion about wildlife care, and they of­fer spe­cial­ist Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cour­ses con­cen­trat­ing on the the­ory and prac­tice of wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and to help peo­ple learn more about tak­ing their in­ter­est fur­ther. WRI In­struc­tors are now recog­nised as lead­ers in their cho­sen field, be­ing asked to lec­ture to vet stu­dents as part of the vet­eri­nary course at UCD.

The long term aim of Wildlife Reha- bil­i­ta­tion Ire­land is to set up a self-sus­tain­ing Na­tional Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Teach­ing Hospi­tal.

The new Wildlife Hospi­tal will have the fa­cil­ity, ex­per­tise and ca­pac­ity to care for and re­ha­bil­i­tate all na­tive wildlife species, as well as a vis­i­tor and ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre with shop, ex­hi­bi­tion area, library, of­fices, store room, lab, class­room and con­fer­ence rooms. There will be paid staff to look af­ter the hospi­tal and an­i­mals, and they’ll also pro­vide on-site ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing for any­one in­ter­ested in learn­ing more.

There will also be a strong role for vol­un­teers to help out, in the same way as vol­un­teers have al­ways helped at Dublin Zoo. WRI be­lieves that so­cial part­ner­ship is the key to this project’s fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity, and is propos­ing a so­cial en­ter­prise part­ner­ship (SEP) project in a joint ven­ture with an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides for the needs of dis­ad­van­taged groups in so­ci­ety.

This SEP project, the first of its kind in the Repub­lic of Ire­land, will of­fer dis­ad­van­taged groups the op­por­tu­nity to care for in­jured an­i­mals in re­turn for their own ed­u­ca­tional ad­vance­ment and personal de­vel­op­ment. The new wildlife care fa­cil­ity would have the po­ten­tial to be­come a ma­jor ad­di­tion to the tourist at­trac­tions of the East coast of Ire­land.

A se­ri­ous level of fund-rais­ing is needed to get this project off the ground, but the vol­un­teers are com­mit­ted to their ideal , and I have no doubt that they will reach their goal. I am hopeful that within a decade, when I have a sick wild an­i­mal that needs on­go­ing care, I will be able to send them in their com­fort­able car­rier cage to this new and ex­cit­ing cen­tre of ex­cel­lence.

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Many vets see wildlife as part of their daily job

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