On the front-line for our furry friends

For somebody used to being on the ‘front-line’, the lockdown period has presented a whole new set of challenges for national-award-winning and Essex-based animal medicines advisor, Dom Whiten. For her, and her fellow animal health professionals, the health and welfare of our local pets and companion animals remains a priority during these challenging times.

Combining her time as practice administrator for a local vet group, and voluntary work with the RSPCA Mid Essex branch, Dom’s passion for animal welfare has really come to the fore during the COVID-19 challenges.

Like many others, Dom was furloughed from her role at Hill Park Veterinary Group through the early stages of the lockdown period, although the main clinic remained open throughout, with a minimal clinical staff providing essential services to the community and their pets.

Now back, practice administrator Dom and the rest of the team at both the Harold Hill and Elm Park practices are busier than ever.

“Thanks to the diligence of our lovely clients, complying with social distancing measures and showing great patience waiting for our busy team, we have been able to continue to supply essential veterinary care and medication,” explains Dom.

“For those isolating, the practice has been able to extend the medication delivery service usually provided only to our mobility restricted pet owners,” she adds.

Dom achieved national recognition just before lockdown, being named the country’s best Companion Animal RAMA (Registered Animal Medicines Adviser) 2020, receiving her award from the industry training and regulatory body, AMTRA at a lavish awards ceremony in Birmingham before the pandemic took hold.

“It was fantastic to receive this recognition from the industry, but most important to me is to provide animal owners with knowledge and advice to benefit their animals. For example, understanding the importance of treatments for parasites not only enhances pet welfare, but also improves the safety of the owners’ family,” she says.

Crucially, the RSPCA Mid Essex branch based in Chelmsford, also benefits from Dom’s AMTRA training and qualification to supply and advise on certain animal medicines. RAMAs are trained to minimum higher education Level 4 status and undertake mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD), to be able to play a key role in animal health and welfare, keeping our pets healthy.

“Unfortunately, due to social distancing guidelines it was not possible for the RSPCA volunteers to visit prospective adopters wishing to give a good home to a pet,” explains Dom. “Not everyone has facilities for online interviews, so we have seen an increasing number of animals needing care.”

Allied to this, the closure of the RSPCA shop in Moulsham Street in Chelmsford, alongside loss of fundraising activities at local shows and fetes, has severely dented income.

“While the small clinic at Great Baddow, near Chelmsford, has provided a slightly reduced veterinary service for pets in need in the local area, this does not contribute to any great extent for the stray and unwanted animals in care, so we are really reliant on the support of the community,” she adds.

Back at the ‘front of house’ at Hill Park, Dom can call on her past experiences to help navigate through these challenging times.

“I have worked as an Epping Forest horse mounted constable, being responsible for a team of working horses and also assisting with injured wildlife as well as lost or injured domestic, equine or farm animals,” says Dom.

“Hopefully, my experience and RAMA status is helping to play a role both for pets and their families. In some circumstances, following strict protocols, we have even been able to allow some owners to stay with their beloved pets whilst they have to say their final goodbye.

“This is a desperately sad time for any pet owner, as well as for our staff, but by being able to do this, hopefully brings some solace during their loss,” adds Dom.

So, as life steadily starts to return to some kind of normality, we can be assured that a dedicated team of animal health professionals are at hand to deliver professional care and medication to our furry friends. Award-winning Dom is proud to be a member of that club!

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the RSPCA Mid Essex branch can do so by visiting www.rspca.org.uk/local/essex-mid-brentwood-chelmsford-and-district-branch