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Free vet clinic saves thousands of pets for Victoria’s unhoused

Vets for Pets Victoria provides essential health care for furry companions of those in need
Chloe Roberts and Megan McCormack, co-directors of Vets For Pets Victoria, took over from Jane Vermeulen in 2021. (Vets for Pets/Photo supplied)

A unique clinic operating at Our Place Society in Victoria is offering a vital lifeline to countless pets belonging to the city’s unhoused population.

The unhoused care deeply for their pets and these cute critters are the only thing they have in their entire world, says Megan McCormack, co-director of the Vets For Pets clinic.

Vets for Pets is open on the second Sunday of each month and looks at 30 to 60 animals a day.

The service provided fulfils an essential public health function and allows the unhoused to get simple vet services for their favourite furry friends said Vets For Pets co-director Megan McCormack

“Some of these pets live outside and might be exposed to critters that carry rabies,” she said.

McCormack said their organization cannot sedate animals or perform surgeries at Our Place.

“We look after simple vaccines and infections, such as those of the eyes, ears, and skin. Given that we operate outdoors in the shipping and receiving garbage recycling area, we can’t do much.”

The service can only see cats and dogs at the Sunday session. However, it has started a mobile component. It will visit different housing organizations like the Cool-Aid Society and Pacifica Housing.

“We’ve seen birds, rats, rabbits, little pocket pets. No amphibians or reptiles yet,” McCormack said

The mobile service will try to reach Greater Victoria but requires a large amount of volunteers and resources to be able to go and see people.

To access the service at Our Place, McCormack will hold an event on Facebook for people to sign up, but it is mostly word of mouth. At 10 a.m. on the same day as the clinic, people will register for medical care for pets in the courtyard of Our Place.

“The clinic starts at 10 and goes to 12, and then we just kind of do a first-come, first-served,” McCormack said.

The service is volunteer-based, and the only person receiving compensation for their services is the security guard at Our Place.

“We can use up to five vets, technicians and assistants per session. We don’t always fill all those positions,” McCormack said.

The service was started in 2008 by one of McCormack’s mentors, Jane Vermeulen, who had seen a need for this type of service and started looking after the basic needs of unhouse animals.

McCormack became involved when Vermeulen realized that the need for a service like the one she was producing was much larger than one person could handle.

“I’d volunteered as a pre-veterinary student, trying to get into vet school, and I knew her from working at a clinic,” McCormack said.

They believe the number of animals coming to their services has increased since the beginning as the small service started by her mentor has grown.

“The service was small but grew rapidly. I think the need has grown and will continue to grow,” she said.

McCormack took over from Vermeulen in 2021 and is now looking after the day-to-day running of the service.

The group will raise funds and receive community donations to provide care, as the care they provide is free to the unhoused community.

“We have connections to clinics in the community that donate medications and tests,” McCormack said.

For situations that Vet for Pets Victoria cannot treat, the unhoused and their loved ones may have few options as no low-income vet clinics operate in Greater Victoria.

“It’s really hard. We don’t have the facilities to, but we try to point people in the right direction, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the help.”

McCormack gets some repeat visitors at the clinic, but these will mostly be older animals who might need palliative care.

“One thing we do not offer is euthanasia. We can’t do that at Our Place. I’m able to bring some clients to the hospital that I work at to offer compassionate euthanasia.”

It is very clear, too, McCormack, just how much the unhoused care for the animals that are with them, as most of the time, these cute critters will be the only thing they have in the world.

“Those pets will eat before they eat, or they won’t stay in certain housing and prefer to stay on the street if their pets are not welcome like they’re so loved and adored.”

McCormack said there is such a stigma around unhoused and their animals, but the myth that they do not care about their pets is just not a reality.

“Working in at the emergency department, our costs are astronomical: at least $1,000 to do anything. And we regularly see people who have the means to do it but choose not to. Not having the money doesn’t equate to not caring or loving your pets,” McCormack said.

To find out more about the organization, you can visit

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