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Munlochy Animal Aid shelter volunteer slams People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) for taking Highland donations – at charity shop in Inverness and from city residents – but offering 'little in return' for local pet owners

By Alasdair Fraser

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Iona Nicol at Munlochy Animal Aid.
Iona Nicol at Munlochy Animal Aid.

A RENOWNED Black Isle animal shelter volunteer is slamming a large UK pets’ charity for taking local cash while offering the Highlands little in return.

Iona Nicol, who runs the non-profit Munlochy Animal Aid, says it is “shocking” the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) provides scant help locally despite intensive fundraising in the area.

The charity operates a busy shop in Queensgate, Inverness, one of around 120 stores across the country.

It also regularly mailshots households in and around the city asking for monthly direct debit donations.

PDSA’s website boasts of offering free or low-cost veterinary care across the UK to owners of sick or injured pets.

It says dedicated teams at its 48 UK pet hospitals provide over 2.5 million veterinary treatments for 300,000 pet owners every year.

But the nearest to Inverness is Aberdeen and only those living in a hospital catchment area can qualify for free or low-cost PDSA vet treatment.

Mrs Nicol, who received an MBE for 40 years’ work with animals, spoke out after an upset 86-year-old man contacted her pleading for help for his suffering dog Ollie.

The 12-year-old border collie needed extensive dental work and treatment for a painful abscess in the mouth.

The elderly man was unable to afford the estimated £590 vets bill and was “turned away” when he approached PDSA for help.

Mrs Nicol, who receives “three or four” such approaches for help weekly, intervened and a social media plea for donations attracted dozens of cash pledges.

But Mrs Nicol, who relies solely on donations to run her sanctuary, remains furious that locals donating to PDSA may be duped into thinking they are helping local animals.

She said: “I’ve been raging about this for a while and I know other people are as well.

“I phoned PDSA after receiving one of their letters asking me to sign up and pay them, which many households do.

“I asked them what help they give locally and they said ‘oh, we don’t have a hospital in your area’.

“They said they gave nothing free, but if people paid them £4.50 a month by direct debit then they might get 20 per cent off some treatments at Crown Vets.

“PDSA have an Inverness shop and send out begging letters to every house. It is shocking.

“My concern is that people here think they’re helping local animals when they’re not. I found the chap quite rude, almost to the point of acting like I was a complete clot.

“It annoys me that they’re taking money from the Highlands without giving back.”

A PDSA spokesperson said: “We would dearly love to help every pet owner who needs support but, sadly, as a charity with limited funding, it’s simply not possible.

“In order to have the biggest possible impact on pet wellbeing, we build and run pet hospitals in towns and cities where need is greatest.

“In many smaller communities, such as Inverness, we also work with private vet practices to help provide low cost vet treatment through our Pet Care scheme.

“Even so, there are some areas we simply cannot reach.”

The spokesman confirmed PDSA offered 20 per cent discounts on treatments for eligible pet owners on certain benefits, outwith hospital catchments, if they paid £4.50 a month.

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