Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph clinic offers both human health care and vet services

A new pop-up clinic in Guelph is using the human-animal connection to make health care more appealing to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

One health clinic offers free veterinary care and public health services under one roof

Voluntary veterinarians spent about 20 minutes with each animal that came to the clinic. (Jessica Morris)

A new pop-up clinic in Guelph is using the human-animal connection to make health care more appealing to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

One Health, which is a partnership between Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health and Community Veterinary Outreach, ran its first full clinic on Tuesday evening in downtown Guelph. 

The clinic offered free veterinary care to vulnerable adults who own pets. Anyone who attended the clinic also had the option of receiving a flu shot and speaking with a public health nurse.

Free pet care is the incentive

"What we do is use the pet as a draw," said Jessica Morris, manager of health protection with Public Health. "So, they come into the clinic and then they have their pet looked after and then they don't even realize that they're getting looked after as well."

That is the only living being that loves them unconditionally. So, they're going to go above and beyond to care for that animal if they get the opportunity.- Jessica Morris, Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health

Morris said those who attended the clinic were more likely seek out help for their pets than they were to get help for themselves.

"They tend to be putting their pets ahead of themselves," she said. "Sometimes, that's the only thing they have in their life, right? You know, they might not have a job or they might not have family and that is the only living being that loves them unconditionally. So they're going to go above and beyond to care for that animal if they get the opportunity."

Adults were referred to the clinic by community organizations and had to register for an appointment.

The clinic was open to adults who had a cat or dog that had not been seen by a veterinarian in the past year. (Jessica Morris)
Helping pets means helping people

"The folks who own these pets often will say that they've saved their lives...or that they're the reason they get out of bed every day," said Dr. Shane Bateman, co-director of Community Veterinary Outreach and a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph.

"Anything that we can do to support that bond means that not only is the animal staying healthy, but hopefully the person in that relationship is staying healthy."

Bateman and his colleagues spent about 20 minutes with each animal, treating it for parasites and fleas, vaccinating against various diseases, and providing nail and dental care. 

Public Health and the Community Veterinary Outreach intend to hold three One Health clinics every year.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly named Jennifer Morris as the manager of health protection with Wellington Dufferin Public Health. The manager's name is actually Jessica Morris.
    Oct 28, 2015 1:54 PM ET

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