About five years ago when I was doing a lot of work with the issue of pedigree dog and cat health I was asked to go and give a talk about it at a welfare discussion day organised by a charity called the Animal Welfare Foundation.

Like many people I’d never heard of them but agreed without hesitation because it was a matter so close to my heart. The day was quite inspirational and tackled a wide range of UK animal welfare issues. And that was when I fell in love with the AWF.

Shortly afterwards I heard on the veterinary grapevine that they were recruiting for trustees and I leapt at the chance to apply. I knew I’d be up against some stiff competition and was over the moon when I received a letter saying I was in. I’ve been a trustee for nearly five years now and my admiration for the charity has only grown. The AWF aims to improve the welfare of all animals in the UK through education, research and debate. This may sound a bit dry but some of the projects we have funded have been ground-breaking and because they look at real welfare issues they can improve the lives of thousands of animals. The charity also tries to find out what the most important current welfare issues are and highlight them. Through things like the discussion day we’ve managed to get the media involved and concerned about some big issues for large and small animals alike.

The AWF also has a strong link to the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and we take part in their Ethics and Welfare discussions which can also then help form BVA policy and their positions of all sorts of welfare issues. This year I was elected to be the AWF rep on the ethics group and the meetings and discussions have been some of the most fascinating of days. The great thing about all this involvement is that I have continued to learn so much. So many animal issues seem absolutely black and white but when you hear from the experts in these fields and see all sides of the argument you realise that there are many shades of grey and so often a hundred different things that you hadn’t even considered.

This year is the AWF’s 30th anniversary and the two things we’d really like to achieve are that more people know who we are and of course that some of those people give us some money! The AWF is a small charity in the shadow of some animal charity giants and any funding we can get is massively appreciated and put to very good use.

Shortly after our last AWF meeting we had some friends over for dinner and I ended up extolling the virtues of the charity. A few hours and a couple of glasses of wine later it had been decided I would swim 300 lengths in honour of the 30th anniversary. I suppose I could have backed out the next day but actually, having spent the year doing knee physio after an accident I decided it was a good challenge for me and a very good cause. One of the friends who were present on the fateful evening is a PE teacher and she rang me first thing Monday morning to say she’d signed up 36 members of staff and got the local pool to donate an afternoon for the event in September! There was no backing out now. A good friend in the village is now doing it to raise money but also to shed 25kg so it’s become quite a thing. All in all what started out as a frivolous evening has turned into something that lots of people should be very proud of.

I’ve set my fundraising target at £5000 and I’m hoping that’s not too ambitious. If you think you can help me in my quest you can visit my page at www.justgiving.com/Emma-Milne300 or you can text TAWF83 followed by £3, £5 or £10 if you’re short of time. As an insider I can tell you that every pound will be well spent and could make a big impact on the welfare of thousands of animals in the UK. Go to www.bva-awf.org.uk for loads of great advice and to see what we’re up to next.     

Emma Milne qualified as a vet in 1996 from Bristol University. She is best known for her appearance in all 11 series of BBC’s Vets In Practice, has gone on to present a number of programmes and been highly involved in many welfare issues from tail docking to hunting with dogs. Her first book, The Truth about Cats and Dogs, published in 2007, looks at the problems with pedigree dog and cat health and her latest book published in 2012 is a light-hearted look at the challenges, characters and their animals from her career so far. It is titled Tales from the Tail End and is available from all major book sellers. You can visit Emma’s website at www.emmathevet.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @emmamilnethevet.



Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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