Tag: news

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. 


Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

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

cute kitten on bookshelf amazon smile

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.

amazon smile logo


Simply visit http://smile.amazon.com 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

Read more news stories, here

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.”

Read more news stories here

PPCT donates £150,000 to ADCH Coronavirus Emergency Fund

tabby cat and puppy snuggle together

Petplan Charitable Trust has donated £150,000 to the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADHC)  Coronavirus Emergency Fund.

ADCH logoThe ADCH fund has been set up in response to the emerging animal welfare crisis. Applications are invited from charities whose work has been directly affected by the current situation, where rescue and rehoming of dogs and cats is their major focus.

“From the outset of lockdown, it was evident that the dog and cat rescue sector was going to suffer badly,” says the Trust’s Chairman, David Simpson. “Not just from a loss of income but also, critically, from an absence of volunteers who are so integral to the amazing work these charities do.

“It was clear that it required a centralised initiative. The Petplan Charitable Trust was delighted to work alongside the ADCH in helping to set up its Coronavirus Emergency Fund and immediately made a contribution of £150,000.”

David Simpson is jointly chairing the Grant Allocation Committee alongside ADCH Chair and CEO of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Claire Horton.

According to Horton, wide-scale pet abandonment could be one big consequence of the coronavirus pandemic if owners struggle to care for their pets financially or can’t cope with them after lockdown.

Is your charity eligible for an ADCH grant? Click here to find out more

“ADCH is extremely grateful to the Petplan Charitable Trust for its extraordinary generosity, in contributing so significantly to our Emergency Fund,” says Horton.  “This money is needed now more than ever before, as so many rescues are facing financial crisis. All organisations in our sector are predicting a significant loss of income during both 2020 and running well into 2021, as their ability to fundraise, keep the charity shops running and open their shelters to the public have all been severely curtailed.

“The Petplan Charitable Trust has been a long-standing supporter of the rescue and rehoming sector for many years and has donated monies to all manner of important sector projects and organisations both large and small. This support has enabled a great many rescues to continue providing high levels of care to their animals, improve their facilities and to carry out vital work in their local communities that have benefited so many people as well as animals.”

The funds will provide one-off grants of up to £10,000 to cover activities directly affected by coronavirus. Grants will be prioritised for organisations with an annual turnover of £500,000 or less and will help support the cost of food, bedding, cleaning equipment and transportation of animals, as well as additional staff costs as a result of staff and volunteers not being able to attend the rescue or shelter.


Read more news stories, here

Learn more about the charities we help, here

Can we really sense our pets’ needs?

golden retriever nose

The Chinese sage Lao Tzu said the wisest people are present to whatever the moment brings.

Our animal companions seem to “live in the moment” naturally. For example, when we sit down to rest on a sunny day with our dog or horse – or, sometimes, our cat – we may all have our eyes half-closed. But if you sneak a glance at your dog, his or her nostrils are often all a-quiver and his ears too.

Dogs’ ears are one indicator of their mood and can move independent of each other. Cats’ ears can also move independently: often when a cat seems to be snoozing you’ll see an ear rotate like a funnel, to catch some sound that we may not hear ourselves. It’s fun to watch! Horses’ ears are like that too. And, of course, mules’ and donkeys’…

mule listening with head cockedMost people find that being relaxed but attentive is pleasurable. Our pets also seem to enjoy being in this state. Down the road, their ability to enjoy the world around them may help us recognise whether they still have `a life worth living’.

Making that judgment for someone else is a huge responsibility that we can easily get wrong. (It’s why doctors and lawyers encourage each of us to make our own advanced care plans and appoint a Power of Attorney. If we don’t, we may find ourselves stuck with care that others think we want but we do not, and we won’t be able to tell them…)

We all want to do the right thing for our pets

We all want to do the right thing for our pets and we use terms like quality of life, best interests, suffering. They are important and useful ideas. They can also mean different things to different people. Also, the best of us can be biased or blinded by our other work or ideas. The animal welfare scholar and ethicist Professor Bernard Rollin described his regrets when he realised he had not noticed the first signs that his beloved dog had reached a point of no return.

Having “blind spots” and biases are potential pitfalls of our quick-thinking, human brains. But our brains can be such a help too. We can ponder our pets’ final days well before times of necessary decisions arrive. We can work out what to watch out for, and how to double-check. We can see how we feel about different general care-plans. We can question our assumptions. Always, we can exercise compassion for ourselves—and for our critters.

The next few posts will suggest some things to ponder, starting with the questions: Who decides about our pets’ life and death, and how?

Over to you. We can’t advise on individual cases, but we’d like to hear from you 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. 


Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

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

PPCT grant keeps the wheels turning at Freshfields Animal Rescue

freshfields animal ambulance

Freshfields Animal Rescue is saving time and resources thanks to its new animal ambulance part-funded by Petplan Charitable Trust.

freshfields animal rescue logoThe charity approached the Trust back in 2018 to fund a shortfall of £7,497 needed to purchase the new animal ambulance. Their old vehicle was no longer fit for purpose having served the charity well for 13 years.

The new purpose-built vehicle is set to serve the charity for many years to come. Modern and well-equipped, it is designed to carry up to eight animals at a time. It also boasts a bespoke modular cage system that gives Freshfields the flexibility to take larger animals.

maple the dog has laser treatment at freshfields animal rescueAccording to the charity, the animal ambulance has not only reduced their running costs but has also improved their effectiveness. Plus, they have saved time and resources in taking animals to veterinary surgeries. What’s more, the charity has been able to carry out further neutering work in the local community.

“Petplan Charitable Trust has been a stalwart supporter of animal rescue services for many years,” says Debbie Hughes of Freshfields Animal Rescue.

“Their understanding of the needs of the charity sector is profound, and is especially important to independent local rescue centres like Freshfields. We are extremely grateful for their assistance in helping us to (literally in this case!) keep the wheels turning as we carry out our life-saving work.”

We’ve supported Freshfields Animal Rescue since 2015 with two grants. The first was for £5000 to purchase equipment for the centre’s on-site vet room.

Read more about the fantastic work at Freshfields, here

Read more news stories, here

PPCT grant helps give ex-racing greyhounds a future

retired black greyhound hope rescue

A grant from Petplan Charitable Trust is helping to support, rehabilitate and rehome injured and retired greyhounds.

hope rescue logoAmazing Greys is the brainchild of Hope Rescue, a charity base in Llanharan, South Wales. The greyhounds all come from a local racing track and many would have been put down without this intervention.

“Without the support of the Petplan Charitable Trust, we would not have been able to sustain this project alongside our provision for stray and abandoned dogs,” explains Hope Rescue’s Amy Greenfield.

a greyhound from the amazing greys project by hope rescueHope Rescue was established in 2005 to improve the welfare of dogs, regardless of breed, age or any medical conditions. The charity primarily takes in stray dogs from Local Authority pounds which would otherwise be put to sleep after seven days. It also accepts all stray dogs from six Local Authorities in South Wales, as well as dogs whose owners can no longer care for them.

A small, independent charity, Hope Rescue relies on the support of dedicated volunteers and donations. One of its key sources of income, its charity shop and dog friendly cafe in Pontypridd, was recently devastated by Storm Dennis. According to Greenfield, the charity will lose an income stream worth around £9000 for every month that its doors remains closed.

Read more about Hope Rescue and Amazing Greys, here

Read more news stories, here

Memorialising our pets: how poems can help us mourn and remember

remembering a beloved pet - the poetry of mary oliver

Poetry – our own or others’, it doesn’t matter – is such a powerful way to express anguish and to mourn and remember the dead.

In the last post, I said we’d come back to the poet Mary Oliver. Afterwards, I remembered that she was a dog-lover. Here at the Trust website, we don’t intend to leave cats and other critters out of the mix! And we won’t. But Oliver was also an outstanding poet who wrote honestly and hopefully about the natural world and everything and everyone in it. If you’re interested, try her Wild Geese which she reads here

A ready-made family in Nature

Her point that we have a ready-made family in Nature makes such sense to me when it comes to our pets. The dear old black dog up the road was a prime example. He was such a joyful, welcoming soul. If he saw you on a walk, he’d come lolloping over stiffly from afar, with a windmilling tail. I just learned that he died recently. He had lived 12 years and had a fine dog’s life. I shall miss his happy presence, as his people surely do.

It turns out that a retired scholar writes memorials in Latin for deceased pets and gives the translations. Things like:

  • Weep for my misfortune all dog lovers, Russell has died, the darling of our home […]


  • […] Be happy among the shades, you well-loved cat […]

How’s that for flowery language – and why not? Immense loss sometimes calls for nothing less.

Heart-rending honesty and beauty

Other poets express their love of animals and sense of loss differently, but with heart-rending honesty and beauty. This poem by Gavin Ewart about his own cat says it all. And elsewhere on the Trust site, you may have seen the poem about a dog called Major written by his  grieving owner. You can read his tribute here.

The Rainbow Bridge piece is another winner and well-known to most of us. And, Mary Oliver also expressed her feelings about her dogs. Her collection Dog Songs says lots of lovely things. In The First Time Percy Came Back, she ponders the mystery of death, in a dream she had about a beloved dog, now dead. Here she is, reading it.

But, back to you…

These days of coronavirus are such strange and sad times for us humans. The demands of lockdown make the pains of any bereavement all the harsher.

To contain our grief for our pets out of respect for those bereaved by Covid-19 – and for the frontline workers who have died from it – shows great solidarity and generosity of heart. That does not make it easy. It is not, especially if we don’t have the space or privacy we need to express our own grief.

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. 


Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

If you are coping with the loss of your dog, cat or any animal companion, the Trust’s Bereavement pages are here to support you. And, if you have a poem or epitaph for a pet that you would like to share, don’t hesitate to post it on our Facebook page.