The Tiertafel veterinary project in Germany, an interim assessment

Two months after the operation Bella and her owner are both very happy!The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has supported Tiertafel Deutschland e.V. since 2008. It is a charity that helps people who can no longer afford to provide their pets with a suitable diet. Most of these people are recipients of social benefits and senior citizens.

For many of these people, pets are vital social partners and dear friends. It is crucial for their well being that they are not forced by poverty to neglect and/or give away their animals. IFAW and the Tiertafel share the view that a better world is possible for people and animals alike.

At present the Tiertafel has distribution stations in twenty German cities, where animal food is given free of charge. In addition, the volunteer staff provides advice and assistance. In some cities a dog trainer is also available.

However, just providing animals with appropriate food is not enough. Pets occasionally get ill and require veterinary care. Unfortunately, for most of the people who visit the Tiertafel, a vet visit is way beyond their means.

That is why IFAW started an initiative in 2010 to subsidize veterinary help at the Tiertafel distribution point in Berlin. Veterinarian Janine Bräuer has been providing treatment for dogs and cats at the Berlin-Treptow distribution station since 2011. IFAW covers most of the costs, but the pet owner is also obliged to contribute and must be officially registered with the Tiertafel.

Last year alone, Janine carried out 759 treatments on 23 distribution days, which is an average of 33 animals treated per IFAW vet service day (officially between 11 am and 3 pm).

On some days the demand was especially high. For instance, Janine treated 63 animals in the space of five hours in one day. It goes without saying that Janine and her colleagues often worked overtime to provide care for all their patients.

The pet owners frequently wait patiently for hours in the waiting room.  They are grateful to obtain urgently needed treatment for their beloved pets.

Janine worked another 13 days for us, to enable her to perform urgent operations. She undertook these at her own well-equipped veterinary practice for small animals in the Neukölln neighborhood, where she normally works.

Thanks to her efforts, Janine was able to save animal lives or halt the progress of malignant diseases. One of many dramatic examples was a dog called Bella who had a tumor in one eye that threatened to spread to her brain. The eye with the tumor had to be removed. Such an operation is extremely complicated and, for Bella’s owner, prohibitively expensive. Thanks to Janine, IFAW and the Tiertafel, Bella received the life saving operation. Bella has recovered form her procedure much to the relief of her owner who is grateful for the help she received.

This is only one of many cases, where, without the help of our vet Janine, animals would likely not have survived or faced a long period of suffering, simply because the owner could not afford a vet.

To help meet the considerable need for veterinary care among this economically disadvantaged population, we are planning to obtain vets for Tiertafel distribution points in other cities, starting with Hamburg.

We look forward to helping many animals as this program continues to expand.


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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters