You may not think of EC1 as a pet-friendly place but the Clerkenwell Animal Hospital proves otherwise. Vet Alex Hatch tells Ellie Porter about giant rabbits, Pig Dogs and celebrity clients
What types of pet do the people of Clerkenwell have?
The same as anywhere else, really – 90 per cent of our work involves cats and dogs. The rest of the pets are a variety of animals great and small, including exotic birds and what are known as “small furries”: hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits. We sometimes get a few stray or injured animals, such as squirrels, pigeons and gulls.
Have you had any particularly memorable patients?
We have so many memorable patients (and clients)! One is a giant Dutch Rabbit who always makes us feel like we’re in Alice in Wonderland. She can be quite frightening at times… Others include an incredibly cute Chihuahua puppy that has seizures, which I had to nurse every night at home for five days, and an English Bull Terrier who’d had blood coming out of her nose for two years because part of a tree was stuck up there.
Can you give us a bit of background on the hospital?
It’s relatively new – it was set up in January 2011 by head vet Mark Lindfield and his business partner David Cuffe. I’ve worked here since October 2011. We’re hidden down a side road to Charterhouse Square, off Clerkenwell Road, so a lot of people don’t know we’re here. We’re just past the Boris Bikes.
How does it differ from other veterinary practices?
It was set up to provide people in central London with both specialist referrals and first-opinion consultations. We also have a 24-hour emergency service. Not only that, you’re likely to be greeted by one of the many “practice animals” – Mark brings his dogs in every day. Condo and Zo are Australian Pig Dogs – both big friendly giants – and there’s little Mac, a 17-year-old Staffie who likes to moan to be taken outdoors a lot. His bladder control isn’t what it was…
What role does the hospital play in the EC1 community?
Most of our clients live locally, and it’s nice to see so many friendly faces when you’re walking around Clerkenwell. We vet the dogs belonging to the City of London Police, and we work with the charity the Dogs Trust to provide veterinary care for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
Describe your typical day
Once I’ve had my requisite cappuccino, I check up on our in-patients and phone concerned owners. We start consulting at 10am, then begin procedures – any-thing from dental work and neutering to more complex medical work-ups such as CT scans and urinalysis. We’re also an emergency hospital, so we’re always on standby for critical cases to come in, which makes the job quite exciting. The hours are long, and I do a lot of on-call work. It’s very rewarding, though.
How does being in the centre of the capital affect your work?
The clients are very different from those in more rural areas. We have customers of all nationalities and backgrounds. Everyone from locals to celebrities and politicians. A big part of my job is to organise pet passports and import/export requirements. Many of our clients travel with their pets and it requires a lot of paperwork.
Do you like working in Clerkenwell?
Definitely. I live in Southwark and fly into work on my red scooter. The area’s full of interesting and lively people. Our clients are usually very friendly, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and their pets more than I have in any other job. There is a sense of community here, and so many nice places to eat, of course…
Where do you like to hang out?
I usually eat lunch at the practice but when I get time to go out for it, I love Burrito Bros on Clerkenwell Road, the Piccolo deli on Goswell Road and, when I feel like treating myself, Kantan, the sushi place on Clerkenwell Road. After work, I like St John, Smiths of Smithfield, Pho and Workshop Coffee.