Spotlight Germany: a new vet practice helps financially challenged pet owners in Hamburg

IFAW-Vet Alexandra knows how to treat all her different patients. Copyright: IFAW/R. OtzipkaA sick pet but no money for the vet?

A lot of people struggling to make ends meet in Germany find themselves in this situation.

Often their pet is their only companion, and they can’t bear to watch them suffer in need of food and medical care.

Rather than leaving their animals hungry or in pain, they’ll make personal sacrifices by doing things such as cutting back on groceries in order to pay for items their pet desperately needs, like medication.

This is one of the reasons why the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) started a new project together with the Tiertafel, an organization based in Germany that provides food to the pets of individuals receiving public assistance.

Three years ago, IFAW opened a vet practice at Tiertafel’s food distribution point in Berlin. Since then our vet, Janine Bräuer, has been providing basic and critical care to pets of the Tiertafel clients every two weeks during the usual hours for food distribution.

She has been vaccinating, chipping, curing inflammations and bites, and treating chronic diseases, as well as providing advice, handing out medicine and organizing emergency operations. 

The demand for this vet is tremendous. 

Usually Janine treats more than 30 animals during one afternoon. Often the clients wait patiently for hours and hours with their cat or dog.

When we saw how urgently this support is needed in Berlin, we knew it would benefit people and animals in other cities and have been working on setting up a new vet practice at Tiertafel’s food distribution point in Hamburg.

We have been very lucky in finding a perfect vet for Tiertafel Hamburg – Alexandra Wenzel, nickname “Kiki”. Alexandra has worked at the University of Berlin, as well as at clinics in France and Switzerland.

She also participated in sterilization projects for street dogs and cats on the island of St. Martin (Antilles) and took care of orphaned animals there. Beginning at the end of this month, the clients of Tiertafel in Hamburg will be able to have their pets examined and treated by Alexandra.

To ensure that care goes to the pets most in need and belong to committed owners, clients benefitting from vet services have to have been regular Tiertafel customers at the Hamburg food distribution point for at least six months.

They are also required to pay for a certain amount of the treatment themselves and are not allowed to bring in newly purchased pets.

Alexandra has been on site to get a first impression and has these thoughts: 

“The people are really nice and they gave me a warm welcome. I’m sure I will have to treat a lot of chronically ill patients at first as people don’t usually go to have this sort of illness treated when they’re short of money. But these are serious sicknesses which have to be taken care of in order to avoid consequences that may be even worse!”

“We are very grateful to have found such a compassionate vet as Alexandra who is excited to work at this project in order to help animals and people here in Hamburg,” says Alexa Kessler, project manager of the German IFAW vet project. “But of course, this can only be a drop in the ocean. This is really about poverty in Germany – and that is something the politicians have to find a lasting solution for.”

For now Kiki will be opening her practice once a month on every other date with the same hours as the Tiertafel food distribution point – as she still has her own practice in the noble Hamburg district of Blankenese.

We are eager to see the Hamburg Tiertafel vet practice open and are very much looking forward to the co-operation with Alexandra! 


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