CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: These rescued pets are a joy, but it’s a crying shame about soaring vet fees

The Supervet: Noel Fitzpatrick 

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Who can afford to own a pet these days? When veterinary nurse Nicole Jenkins found a poorly kitten on the office doorstep, she had to launch a crowd-funding campaign to save the little animal.

Black-and-white moggie Pretzel, who was just seven weeks old, was born with twisted back legs, caused by a genetic condition. Professor Noel Fitzpatrick was willing to attempt surgery, on The Supervet (Ch4), but inevitably the cost was steep.

According to Nicole’s local paper, the 26-year-old was faced with raising £8,000 online in just two weeks.

My only surprise is that Noel, with his large surgical team, wasn’t more expensive. When my own pet Picnic took an unexpected trip to the vet’s last weekend, after getting into a scrap with a neighbour’s cat, I was landed with a staggering bill.

Following a cat fight that must have woken half the street, Picnic disappeared for two days. We finally found him cowering under the spare bed, at midnight last Saturday, looking half dead. He had been bitten on the leg, and the wound was septic.

The compilation edition of The Supervet featured rescues who Professor Noel Fitzpatrick (pictured) had helped over the years 

My only surprise is that Noel, with his large surgical team, wasn’t more expensive. When my own pet Picnic took an unexpected trip to the vet’s last weekend, after getting into a scrap with a neighbour’s cat, I was landed with a staggering bill

My only surprise is that Noel, with his large surgical team, wasn’t more expensive. When my own pet Picnic took an unexpected trip to the vet’s last weekend, after getting into a scrap with a neighbour’s cat, I was landed with a staggering bill

The charge for an emergency 1am consultation, overnight care and treatment on a Sunday came to an eye-watering £2,300. I say ‘eye-watering’ because I burst out crying every time I look at my bank account.

My wife and I have had pets for decades and never taken out insurance — I was assured back in the 1990s by our family vet, Tony Kaye, that it was bound to work out cheaper if I just paid for treatment when needed. And at Tony’s prices, that was true.

It’s not the case any more. Fees have rocketed in the past few years, largely driven by the takeover of small practices by private equity groups.

The animal-lovers worst hit are those kind-hearted souls who rescue stray or abandoned pets such as Pretzel, many of which have pre-existing medical conditions. No insurance will cover that.

It’ll be a wretched state of affairs if Britain becomes a country where only the well-off dare keep a dog or cat, while rescuing any animal becomes prohibitively expensive. An election pledge to cap vets’ fees and prevent cynical profiteering would be a vote-winner.

All the cases featured in this compilation edition of The Supervet were rescues. Wobble the whippet, whose story was first shown in 2015, was unsteady on her feet, after a cruel beating left her with a damaged spinal cord.

And Bran the three-legged Alsatian, bred at an illegal puppy farm, was so disabled in 2019 that Noel feared at first it would be unethical to operate on him.

The real pleasure of these updated segments from past episodes is seeing how the animals have fared since. Wobble has been renamed Mini, while Bran bounds around with no apparent ill effects.

And Pretzel, though she still hobbles a bit, is adorably play-ful. Restoring rescued animals to health is well worth the financial sacrifice — but it shouldn’t cost the earth.

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