POVERTY-stricken pet owners breathed a sigh of relief as veterinary charity PDSA opened Sunderland’s new £1.6million hospital for its first full day of surgery.
The spectacular new facility, off North Hylton Road, Castletown – funded entirely through donations from the public – is thought to be the best PDSA facility in the country.
TV agony aunt Denise Robertson and FA cup winner Jimmy Montgomery cut the ribbon at yesterday’s opening ceremony.
She said: “This is a great day for the city as a whole.
“I am a passionate dog owner and there have been times in my life when I haven’t had a penny to my name and although I have never needed the PDSA, it has been a great comfort to know it was there.
“I know just how much love and companionship pets bring into our lives.
“In return, it’s vitally important that we treat them well and protect them from sickness and injury.
“I don’t think anyone should be denied the joy of having a pet just because they cannot afford it.”
After 10 years in the planning, the veterinary team from the old practice, in King’s Road, Southwick, are delighted to have finally moved to the new location.
Senior vet Ian McClive said: “It’s quite a dramatic change for the clients, the patients and the staff.
“There are bigger and better waiting rooms, shorter waiting times and a digital telephone system so the phone is not constantly engaged like it used to be.
“Patients will be seen faster and get a better quality of care.
“It’s been planned for so long I think some staff thought the day would never come. Now it is here, it’s fantastic.”
The new Sunderland PDSA PetAid hospital is officially known as the Reay Hudson Centre after a huge fund-raising donation from the late Derek Reay Hudson’s estate, which gave the project an enormous financial boost.
The veterinary team based there expect to see about 170 pets a day providing everything from consultations and routine procedures to life-saving operations.
Pet owners who live within the hospital’s catchment area can register with PDSA if they are get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.
Treatment for sickness or injury is free, though owners are always asked to make a contribution towards the cost of preventative treatments, including microchipping, neutering and worming.
PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: “I have seen this project through from the purchase of the land to being here today and it feels great.
“The premises at Southwick served us for many years but they are no longer fit for the purpose.
“We knew 2010 was going to see a rise in demand because the recession has made a lot more people eligible for our help.
“The old hospital was not able to deal with demand and all the sick and injured animals would have suffered but now we have this place it really is fantastic.”