The history of the PDSA

PDSA is the UK's leading veterinary charity, it 2013 they carried out more than 2.3 million free veterinary treatments.

The charity was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin CBE, an animal welfare pioneer. On Saturday 17 November 1917, she opened her first 'People's Dispensary for Sick Animals of the Poor'. Outside the cellar in the Whitechapel district of London, a notice read:

Bring your sick animals.
Do not let them suffer.
All animals treated.
All treatment free.

Who was Maria Dickin?

Maria Dickin was born in London in 1870. She was the daughter of a Free Church minister and the eldest of eight children. She was described as bright, confident and independent-minded.

Maria Dickin - animal welfare pioneer

After marrying at the age of 28 and in need of fulfilment, Maria launched herself into social work. Visiting the poor of London's East End she was horrified by the poverty but it was the sight of animals suffering in silence that she found unbearable. In the streets she found dogs and cats, raw with mange and often dragging broken limbs. Goats and rabbits huddled sick and injured in back yards while horses and donkeys were often worked lame and crippled by heavy loads.

During the First World War, Maria Dickin worked to improve the dreadful state of animal health in the Whitechapel area of London. She wanted to open a clinic where East Enders living in poverty could receive free treatment for their sick and injured animals.

Despite the scepticism of the establishment, she opened her free 'dispensary' in a Whitechapel basement on Saturday 17 November 1917. It was an immediate success and she was soon forced to find larger premises.

Within six years she had designed and equipped her first horse-drawn clinic and soon a fleet of mobile dispensaries was established.

One of the first PDSA clinics

The good work continues

The charity Maria Dickin built has gone from strength to strength. PDSA continues to ensure that the sick and injured pets of those unable to afford private veterinary fees have somewhere to go to for help and free treatment.

A PDSA vet