A history of caring

Helping pets in need for almost 100 years, PDSA touches the lives of more pets and their owners than any other animal charity in the UK today.

With 51 PDSA Pet Hospitals and over 380 Pet Practices delivering vital lifesaving care daily, there is no other animal charity that compares to PDSA in terms of the scale and impact it has on animal welfare.

And it’s all due to the vision of one incredible woman: Maria Elisabeth Dickin. She was determined to raise both the status of animals in society and the standard of their care. Take a look back through the years at some of the milestones in our history.

1917 - 1930

The very first PDSA Pet Clinic opens

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals of the Poor opens its first clinic in a cellar in London’s Whitechapel. Inspirational founder Maria Dickin is moved by the plight of sick animals and the owners who can’t afford to treat them.


Reaching animals – and helping owners

PDSA's founder, Maria Dickin finds a way to reach more animals in need and educate their owners. She transforms a horse-drawn caravan into a travelling clinic, the first in a fleet for Britain.

Seven London PDSA Pet Clinics for PDSA

Within four years, PDSA has seven PDSA Pet Clinics across London, treating 40,000 animals a year between them.


PDSA comes to Exeter

PDSA start to establish permanent clinics in areas of greatest need. This year Exeter welcomes the first PDSA clinic outside London.


17 Pet Clinics for PDSA as word spreads

PDSA now has 17 Pet Clinics across the UK, caring for 150,000 animals every year. It also extends its work abroad to Paris, Romania, Tangier, Egypt, Greece and Palestine.


Europe’s first animal sanatorium

On the edge of London, the Ilford Sanatorium offers a rest home for horses and donkeys and a fully equipped training centre for vet students. A modern PDSA Pet Hospital now stands on the site.


Children become Busy Bees

Maria Dickin launches Busy Bees, a club for children. Our young supporters are soon learning about how to take good care of their pets as well as raising vital funds for PDSA.

1930 - 1950

Free annual treatments pass a million

The number of free annual treatments reaches a staggering seven figures.


Helping pets in wartime

Between 1939 and 1945, dedicated PDSA Animal Rescue squads help to save and treat more than 250,000 pets injured and lost during the Blitz.


A club for animals in service

PDSA sets up its Allied Forces Mascot Club for animals serving during World War II, both saving lives and providing morale-boosting companionship for soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Recognising animal bravery

The PDSA Dickin Medal is established to honour the gallantry and devotion of animals that show outstanding endurance or bravery in the line of duty.

1950 - 1970

A very sad day for PDSA

Our founder and inspiration, Maria Dickin, CBE, passes away on 1 March, aged 81, after a life spent working tirelessly on behalf of animals. She is remembered worldwide as one of the greatest figures in the history of animal welfare.


Enid Blyton becomes Queen Bee

The famous and much-loved children’s writer attracts over 20,000 new members in her first year as head of our Busy Bees Club.


A new club for junior supporters

Buoyed by the success of the existing Busy Bees club, PDSA launches the Animal Service Guild, a new club aimed at older children.


Our very first PDSA Pet Hospital

To keep pace with advances in veterinary medicine and technology, PDSA opens its very first purpose-built Pet Hospital, at Dunkirk Road, Nottingham, in July 1960.


Time for our Golden Jubilee

We celebrate 50 fantastic years and also move headquarters from London to larger premises in Dorking, Surrey.

1970 - 1990

We hit the high street

PDSA now has 15 shops on high streets across Britain, each raising money and making a vital contribution to pet care.


PDSA welcomes HRH Princess Alexandra

Continuing the long-standing interest of the Royal Family in the work of the charity, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra succeeds her mother as Patron of PDSA, a position she holds to this day.


A fond farewell

It’s the end of an era as PDSA finally withdraws its Mobile Animal Treatment Units, more than 50 years after they first appeared on the streets of Britain.


Celebrating 60 years of helping pets

PDSA celebrates its Diamond Jubilee – 60 amazing years of saving and protecting the lives of much-loved pets.


We start in-house training for our nurses

PDSA introduces its first in-house training scheme for veterinary nurses. It’s in keeping with our reputation for pioneering developments in veterinary medical practice.


Helping more pets far and wide

We begin a special service to help pet patients and their owners who don’t live near a PDSA Pet Hospital get access to PDSA care from their local private practices. By 2014 there are over 380 of these PDSA Pet Practices.


A new way to fundraise

We introduce a lottery draw to boost the charity’s funds and help give more vital care for pets in need.


We move to Shropshire

PDSA relocates its headquarters from Surrey to Telford in Shropshire. The new HQ is officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in June 1990.

1990 - 2000

PDSA celebrate 75 years

To mark our anniversary, a replica of Maria Dickin’s very first horse-drawn mobile dispensary takes a 900-mile trip around Britain to raise awareness of PDSA’s history and ongoing work.


A brand new club for children

PDSA launches its Pet Protectors Club, replacing the previous club, Busy Bees. The new club helps PDSA reach thousands of children and teenagers to educate them on caring for pets.


Back to our roots in London’s East End

The completion of a brand new, purpose-built Pet Hospital in Bow heralds the return of PDSA to the area of east London where the charity established its very first dispensary, 80 years earlier.

2000 - 2010


An ITV documentary series, The People’s Vets, is filmed at our New Cross pet hospital in London. It goes behind the scenes of the busy hospital revealing the amazing lifesaving operations and treatments the vet team carry out to save and protect the lives of poorly pets. Millions of viewers tune in to see PDSA in action.


The launch of Pet Fit Club

We start Pet Fit Club, our annual pet slimming competition, in an effort to help combat the rising levels of pet obesity.


A new look for our Animal Cemetery

The PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex, undergoes a sympathetic restoration. A £50k grant from the Big Lottery Fund and The People’s Millions helps PDSA improve the Cemetery with a new visitor centre and wheelchair-accessible path.

Northern Ireland’s first Pet hospital opens

Belfast becomes home to the first dedicated PDSA Pet Hospital in Northern Ireland.


Paws Forever

To give people a way to remember their much-loved pets we open a new Garden of Remembrance and the Paws Forever Pet Tribute Garden at Ilford PDSA Animal Cemetery.


Ken Dodd opens Liverpool hospital

Comedian Ken Dodd officially opens a brand new pet hospital in Liverpool: The Jeanne Marchig Centre. It treats an incredible 300 pets each day.


Launch of the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report

We launch the groundbreaking PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, giving the most comprehensive insight ever into pet wellbeing. It is referenced widely across the media and the veterinary profession.


PDSA wins the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award

We’re delighted to be one of just 60 organisations recognised for the hard work, commitment and generosity of our volunteers.

The Gwen Rees Centre opens in Plymouth

We open the new state-of-the-art Plymouth PDSA Pet Hospital, The Gwen Rees Centre, which helps 9,000 sick and injured pets every year.


PDSA secures £50,000 funding boost

The UK’s affection for PDSA comes out in force when we win a public vote for the UK’s most loved charity, scooping an incredible £50,000 from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. We use the funding in two important ways: to help prevent illnesses – and to educate millions of owners on animal wellbeing.

Replacement PDSA Pet Hospital opens in Cardiff

The brand new Marian and Christina Ionescu Centre opens ahead of schedule in Cardiff. It replaces the previous hospital which had outgrown demand from its furry patients.