The Pup Aid event was a huge success in its new location in London this year, and I felt honored to be able to attend on behalf of Petful and lend our support in the global fight to stop puppy mills (called “puppy farms” in the U.K.).
I wanted to learn more about the event’s origin, the man behind it, and what fueled the appeal to the public.
Pup Aid was a large project to organize and produce, especially given the restrictions of the new location at Primrose Hill. The Royal Parks don’t normally allow such events, so Dr. Marc Abraham (“Marc the Vet”) and his Pup Aid team had high expectations to meet.
They were exhausted after the event — rightfully so — but I was able to meet up with them in Brighton on Sunday afternoon for a late lunch. After the meal was over and the sunny sky had turned overcast with a little rain, we moved inside for warmth. Marc and I then sat down for a one-on-one interview.
Kristine: When did you first become aware of puppy farms?
Marc: Sick puppies were coming into the practice for urgent care. Some of them were serious, while others had to be hospitalized. In most cases the puppies were barely 2 months old and were coming to us on IV drips for overnight care. They were in a right state, some contagious, some with parvo virus or other serious illnesses. Ninety% of them didn’t make it.
For some families, these puppies were their first experiences with having a pet and the costs could easily cause financial ruin. The sick puppies kept coming, and I wanted to know where they were coming from.
After investigating the source, we found that some of them were coming from a puppy farm with deplorable conditions. Our efforts helped shut down that facility, and the desire to demand higher standards of care for all dogs became a priority.
What influenced you to start an anti-puppy farming event?
Changing legislation to tighten laws for puppy farming is a difficult and slow process. Even though I visited Parliament and continue to press legislators for more regulations, it was clear that a larger effort was needed.
Demand needed to drop. The public needed to become aware of puppy farms. People needed to start asking breeders questions and stop buying dogs from the internet, newspaper ads, pet shops and backyard farms without asking to see the conditions and the puppy’s parents.
By educating and informing the public that these hidden, horrid conditions are often the reason for declining health, illnesses and sometimes debilitating costs, they become more vigilant about making responsible choices.
You’re almost always seen wearing your light blue scrubs. Is there a reason behind that?
I was on my way to film a television series in front of a live audience and they asked that I wear a nice shirt, chinos, nice shoes, maybe a tie. That was a problem because I didn’t have nice shoes, chinos or a nice shirt.
As you can see, I’m dressed like a vagrant, but I told them I had my scrubs from working as an emergency vet. The scrubs became an identifying symbol for me and in a sense became part of my brand.
People see the same thing repeatedly and associate it with a product, company or message. The scrubs identify my role as a vet and the message I want to send, especially when it comes to puppy farming.
With the exception of visits to Parliament, I wear scrubs to events and appearances to further that brand continuity. I think it’s important when you’re dealing with the public to have that constant image that doesn’t change.
How did the “TV Vet” nickname come about?
I was starting the evening shift one night, and a film crew was already at the clinic performing a test run for a show about naughty dogs for Victoria Stillwell. They wanted to record a bit on camera and asked me to help them. I was a big fan of the show so was happy to do it, although the dogs were too well behaved to make the cut.
They liked my camera presence and asked to take my number down. I ended up doing an hour-long special on dogs and obesity with Victoria after the run-through.
From there I received an email about a television show looking for a vet for a series. At the time I had been writing for the newspaper for 2 years but was interested in signing on to do more work.
I was selected to do 5 series of their pet clinic where people would write in with their problems and be selected to come to the show. It was a live studio audience and I was terrified every time I did it, but what got me through it was knowing that I would help so many animals and raise awareness about their care.
In your book you describe your overnight clinic schedule and the feeling of missing out on so much. How was the transition back to the day shift?
The transition was horrible. It went from constantly feeling jet-lagged to now having a normal life. Those years and years of not having a normal life while watching all my family and friends having normal lives was quite hard.
I have a house in Brighton, and I was never there. Now when I spend time in my own house, it’s a novelty.
Are there any changes planned for next year’s show?
Expanding and providing more options for attendees are definitely goals for us. Many people were asking about vegetarian options for food choices, so we will look into providing that option next year. Many other ideas are being considered, and we’ll do the best we can to make the show bigger and better next year if that’s possible.
I’m so humbled and so blown away. I don’t think it will sink in for a long time. Saturday’s Pup Aid was probably the highlight of my career.