Since 1994, the Petplan Charitable Trust has donated over £11 million to animal charities and veterinary institutions.
Co-Founder, David Simpson, explains how it all started and highlights some of his favourite projects to date. He also introduces us to his beloved cocker spaniel, Marmaduke.
What inspired you to start Petplan Charitable Trust?
Patsy Bloom, my partner in Petplan, had the idea. We had founded Petplan together some 18 years earlier. It had grown to be the largest pet insurer with 400,000 clients. Clients were always sending us pictures of their pets and engaging with us quite differently from how clients normally communicate with their insurers. Patsy felt, rightly, that clients would be interested in helping less fortunate animals and helping to improve veterinary medicine generally. As part of Petplan’s normal business we had strong connections with the larger animals charities and knew how serious a problem animal welfare was generally in the whole country.
You’re clearly an animal lover. Did you grow up with pets? Do you have any today?
Funnily enough, no, I did not grow up with pets. My parents moved around a lot from Greece, where I was born, to several countries in Africa. This made having pets difficult. We did rescue a pair of beautiful Samoyeds, Kiki and Tina, in Algiers. who had been horribly mistreated. Unfortunately, we moved on but not before finding them a good home. I rode regularly and have always loved horses. I did not have any dogs again until I had children, when we had two Shelties and a Cavalier King Charles. After the children left home we did not have any pets.
Then, 5 years ago, I brought Marmaduke into my life. He is a chocolate Working Cocker. He is not a working dog, just a great big softie with typical spaniel dolesome eyes and a lovely temperament. His only fault is that when it comes to food he is a total millennial. He believes that he has an entitlement to any food that is around ….. anywhere. It turns him into a thief!
How has PPCT grown over the past 20 years?
Enormously. We were not sure how policyholders would react. Initially their donations were built into their premium. However, for the last 20 years, they have had to make the conscious choice to give us money. We have been overwhelmed by their support. We now have an income of around £1 million per annum which has enabled us to help advance veterinary science and support a vast number of very worthy causes.
Does Petplan Charitable Trust only support UK charities and organisations, or do you also do work overseas?
We do support work overseas, though mostly through UK-based organisations. The vast majority of our support does go to charities working in the UK to reflect our donor base. There are, however, a number of really good charities operating overseas who are doing tremendous work who we feel it is important to support.
Petplan Charitable Trust has helped many charities achieve great things. Are there any projects PPCT has supported which are particularly memorable?
Goodness me, there are so many – that I could go on for a long time! Our work in supporting rehoming and rescue charities of course has always been central to our grants and remains a core element. I have always been drawn to the ‘human/animal bond’ side of things and there are so many that come to mind; assistance dogs such as Hearing Dogs and Pets for Therapy; Riding for the Disabled and the important work they do; Service Dogs matching rescues with ex serviceman with PTSD; StreetVet veterinary volunteers treating homeless people’s dogs; and to several charities we have supported who find foster homes for pets when a home breaks up through domestic abuse. Sadly, refuges cannot take in pets yet families need to know that their pets will be able to rejoin them in due course.
One of the more quirky was helping the Hampshire Fire Brigade’s Animal Rescue unit. We funded the first dedicated Animal Rescue tender, and also supported the team as they not only trained another 53 brigades around the country but introduced a programme whereby there is now a network of specially-trained emergency veterinary surgeons across the whole of the UK.
Our largest grant to date has been to the Pet Blood Bank which has enabled them to build a specialist mobile collection unit. Our smallest grant was £375 a year we gave to the Joseph Clark School, a school for children with special needs, that financed the food for their pet rabbits and gerbils.
What is the thing that you’re most proud of that Petplan Charitable Trust has achieved?
That we have become a significant grant giver. In terms of our support of clinical studies, as government and other funding has dwindled, the role we play has increased. On the Welfare front, too, we are a major grant giver which is evidenced by the fact that we have to date supported more than 300 individual charities.
How do you choose which charities and projects Petplan Charitable Trust will help?
We invite applications for both our clinical work and welfare grants. (If you’re a charity, veterinary institution or veterinary practice, you can apply for a grant, here) These are assessed by our Scientific Committee, made up of eminent veterinary surgeons from every veterinary school in the country, and our Welfare Committee comprising experienced animal welfare experts. They assess the applications and make recommendations to the Trustees who make the ultimate decisions.
More recently, we have also started to look at specific areas and organisations that we feel we would like to support and where we feel there is a special case to be made. These are assessed by a small committee of Trustees who in turn make their recommendations to Trustees.
Looking to the future, how do you see Petplan Charitable Trust continuing to grow?
Very much more of the same. There is still an enormous amount of work to be done and the animal welfare issues do not go away. Every year we have to turn away many worthwhile applications. I would like to think we could raise more money from our donor base so that we can bridge some of this shortfall.