Month: May 2020

PPCT-funded assistance dog Sailor loves doing the washing!

sailor assistance dog dogs for good

A Dogs For Good assistance dog whose training was funded by Petplan Charitable Trust has passed his course with flying colours.

Dogs for Good logoSailor is affectionately described by staff at the charity Dogs For Good as a “sweet and occasionally silly” black Labrador. His training has been funded by a £10,000 grant from the Trust. As he settles down to life with his new human partner, you can read about his journey to becoming a life-changing assistance dog in our new case study.

He started his rigorous training as a puppy and is now two years old. Described by his trainer as ‘a dream to train’ he was in high demand, with eleven potential matches. He’s now been matched up with Caroline whose mobility is limited after suffering a spinal stroke eight years ago. Extremely obedient on the lead, this lovable lab is a patient partner for Caroline, never pulling and always ready to help.

Sailor has acquired new skills during lockdown

They are now five months into their partnership and Sailor has already learnt news skills due to the coronavirus lockdown. As Caroline has been spending more time in the garden he has learnt to fetch her trowel and weeding bucket. But, as the video on our case study page shows, his absolute favourite task is emptying and filling the washing machine. In fact, Caroline admits that if she hasn’t specifically asked him to do the job, he finds items that he thinks need washing and does it anyway! It’s clear that he has brought a lot of joy into her life.

“He’s brought back to me bits of my life that I never thought I’d get back,” she says. “He spurs me on to do more and more. I can go where I want, when I want and my confidence is growing every day. Already, we have an incredible bond.”

Read Sailor’s story, here

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Who decides that a pet is better off dead than alive? And how do they decide?

elderly man hugs his cat

Euthanasia is irreversible so it seems right that most pet owners agonise over the decision and want to double-check before making it. Unfortunately, anyone deciding on their own can get the timing very wrong…

An informed decision about a pet’s euthanasia (“put to sleep”) takes input from owner and vet. That’s because each of them is an expert on a different aspect of the pet’s wellbeing. So, my answer to “Who decides?” is: normally, the owner and vet should share the decision.

Unlike your vet, you are expert on your pet’s preferences, fears and everything that makes life worth living for him or her. No vet can know this like you do. Instead, your vet is expert in clinical theory and in how that applies to each pet in the pet’s unique context. Even a lifetime of ownership will not give you that, nor can the internet.

How do you and your vet decide?

A simple decision aid is The ABC Yardstick, which vet and owner work through in alphabetical order. But decisions are not simply a matter of ABC or logic or “being sensible”. For most of us, pets are family. We love them dearly and we feel the weight of our decisions and losses very deeply. The next post will look at some of that, such as caregiver burden and guilt.

vet examines white and brown rabbit euthanasia

Later posts will say more about the ABC Yardstick too. Briefly, for now:

A stands for Agony or `Awfulness’

  • Vets are expert in whether a pet is either already suffering or at high risk of starting to suffer very soon.
  • Suffering isn’t only pain; it can involve things like breathlessness and extreme weakness.

B stands for Burden of Treatment (on the pet)

(See next post for the important question of caregiver burden and costs)

  • Vets know what different care options involve, and how likely each option is to help a given pet.
  • Owners know what their pets can cope with. For example, some animals hate anything to do with vets and even the simplest treatments.
  • Veterinary nurses know a lot about their patients too: if a pet has been hospitalised in the past, the nurses usually know how the pet coped with that.

C stands for the pet’s Capacity to Enjoy Life

  • Owners are expert in what gives their pets pleasure.
  • Vets know the likelihood that the preferred care option could restore the pet to that point.

dog looks at owner euthanasia

Putting those together: normally, euthanasia is a good decision for a pet if:

  • A. They are already suffering or are at high risk of suffering very soon, and
  • B. Treatment is either not available or would be burdensome to the pet, and /or
  • C. Treatment has little or no chance of making the pet well enough to enjoy life (–`the life worth living’, from his point of view)

Often, a period of thorough palliative care can keep pets very comfortable and give their owners time to say goodbye. In many cases too, a complete veterinary palliative approach can keep the pets comfortable enough to enjoy life for some while, and isn’t burdensome. This `animal hospice’ is just starting to develop in veterinary practice. More about that in a separate post.

Back to you meanwhile. What is your experience? Do we humans sometimes tend to chase life for our pets at any cost and not think enough about the burdens on pets, and on ourselves? How can we be `kind yet resolute and not foolish’? Share your thoughts and stories on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram.

Caroline Hewson


Author: Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline Hewson is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. She writes and gives talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind. 


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If you are facing the loss of a pet companion, or are recently bereaved, you may find this resource useful.

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Support Petplan Charitable Trust when you shop at Amazon

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We’re delighted to announce that you can now support the Trust when you shop on Amazon and it won’t cost you a thing.

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Simply visit and select Petplan Charitable Trust from the dropdown menu. Amazon will make a donation on  your behalf when you shop.


Find out more about some of the many charities we support, here

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PPCT announces new Covid-19 Equine Rescues Emergency Fund

horse nuzzles womans hand covid 19 equine rescues emergency fund

The Petplan Charitable Trust (PPCT) has joined together with World Horse Welfare and the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) to create a Covid-19 Equine Rescues Emergency Fund.

world horse welfare logoThe purpose of the fund is to help smaller equine welfare organisations across the UK who are being significantly impacted by the current crisis and will go live on Monday 11th May 2020.

All equine welfare organisations have experienced unprecedented financial and operational challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis. On top of looking after the animals in their care with very limited rehoming possible, they have had to close their centres to visitors, cancel fundraising events and see donations dry up during the ongoing crisis. This can be especially devastating for smaller charities.

Support for the Fund, which was set up at the end of last month with a commitment of £50,000 from PPCT has already raised a further £80,000 from the RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings, World Horse Welfare and the British Horse Society (BHS).

Average grant expected to  be around £2,500

national equine welfare council NEWC

The maximum grant will be £5,000 with the expectation that the average grant will be around £2,500. Grants will be decided by a Committee comprising representatives from NEWC, the supporting charities and an independent member, with PPCT administering the fund.

Applicants need not be NEWC members, but rescue and rehoming of equines should be the primary focus of the organisation. If more applications are received than funds available, priority will be given to NEWC members and those smaller organisations that have not received emergency funding from other emergency funds (e.g. Support Adoption for Pets Emergency Fund).

David Simpson, Chair of PPCT, stated “The Petplan Charitable Trust has always supported the tremendous work horse rescues perform and we are delighted to work alongside others to help in these difficult times.”

Roly Owers, MRCVS, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare said “The current situation, and the economic fallout from the pandemic, will just make a bad situation a whole lot worse. There is no capacity within the UK’s equine rescue system so it is vital, as we start to rehome animals again, that we have as many organisations as possible working to support the inevitable tidal wave of welfare cases that will need help over the course of this year.

“We are hugely grateful to our sister charities, including the RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings and the BHS for supporting the Covid-19 Equine Rescues Emergency Fund and to the PPCT for agreeing to administer this vital safety net to smaller, but no less important, equine welfare organisations during this extraordinary time.”

Apply for the fund, here

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How Birmingham Dogs Home is ‘taking the lead’ during lockdown

birmingham dogs home dog chases ball

Birmingham Dogs Home has hit the ground running amidst the coronavirus crisis with its ‘Take the Lead Together’ fundraising campaign.

birmingham dogs home logoHaving been forced to re-schedule the BDH “Walk in the Park”, the charity quickly planned and launched a virtual “walkies” event instead.

“A surge in social media usage across all channels was an obvious opportunity for our team to try some new digital fundraising activities,” explains the charity’s Head of Fundraising, Fi Harrison.

“We have encouraged our supporters to take up the challenge of matching the number of steps that our canine carers walk every day and celebrate reaching milestones along the way. Our aim was to develop and strengthen our relationship with our supporters in a light-hearted way. We also wanted to strengthen the connection between their own dog walking and the walking our staff are doing every day.

rescue dog panting birmingham dogs home“Our approach has been to involve our supporters and local communities and share our challenges together – the inspiration for the campaign name “Take the Lead Together”. We are already on the way to raising as much as we would have done from our actual walkies event, with individuals and businesses joining in and spreading the word.”

Inability to rehome puts strain on capacity

Along with all organisations in the not-for-profit sector, the charity is facing many challenges. Stray and abandoned dogs from local authorities continue to arrive at BDH ‘s Birmingham and Wolverhampton centres but rehoming has not been possible for over a month.

“This has an impact in terms of capacity,” explains Giles Webber, Birmingham Dogs Home’s Chief Executive.  “In turn, it puts our canine carer teams under increased pressure with more dogs to care for each day. It is a busy schedule for everyone, particularly as we have had to ask our volunteers to stay at home which increases the workload for our staff.”

Webber also sits on the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) committee and has been closely involved in decisions to formulate a raft of support for the sector at large. He says the association has been ‘working tirelessly’ to support all of its members during the Covid-19 crisis:

“The ADCH has been getting to the heart of the issues for the sector responding to survey results by working closely with DEFRA to develop guidelines around the issues of rehoming and social distancing. The association has also been coordinating the distribution of emergency supplies, as well as launching an Emergency Fund.

“The ADCH has been instrumental in coordinating the support of many sector leaders that have made major contributions to this effort including Petplan Charitable Trust.”

rescue dog running on grass birmingham dogs home

He adds:

“I am very proud of the way the Birmingham Dogs Home team has pulled together during these testing times. They continue to be in good spirits despite the challenges. We are all motivated by the same passion to give as many dogs as possible the best possible care while they are with us. That’s what we are working hard to do.”

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