Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is special about the AHT?
There are many fine charities working in the field of animal welfare but the Animal Health Trust (AHT) is the one whose actions and achievements provide the greatest long-term benefit for companion animals. AHT vets not only treat thousands of sick dogs, cats and horses each year, they pioneer better ways of doing so, thus improving veterinary practice worldwide. At the same time, AHT scientists study the diseases and viruses afflicting companion animals in order to find new ways of reducing their frequency and their severity and, if possible, eradicating them altogether.
Furthermore, by publishing scientific papers, speaking at conferences and talking to other veterinary surgeons, the results are passed on as widely as possible in order to improve the health of all dogs, cat and horses wherever they may be.
2. How did the AHT start?
The AHT was founded in 1942 as the Veterinary Education Trust by a veterinary surgeon, Dr W R Wooldridge, who saw the advances being made in human medicine and wanted to apply them for the benefit of animals. The Veterinary Education Trust was re-named the Animal Health Trust in 1948.
The AHT has enjoyed considerable active support from the Royal Family. HM The Queen was graciously pleased to become Patron in 1959 and the AHT was awarded its Royal Charter in 1963. In 1991 HRH The Princess Royal became President and actively continues in the role today.
3. What are your most significant achievements?
Every year AHT surgeons have extraordinary success on very complex cases involving individual animals. Among the most famous was the series of operations carried out on Mill Reef’s shattered cannon bone and fetlock in 1972 which saved the great racehorse for stallion duties. More recently, in 2006, AHT specialists saved the eyesight of Buster, the celebrated dog of the entertainer Paul O Grady, by emergency surgery. However, it is major breakthroughs rather than individual cases which best illustrate the Trust’s record of success. Here are just some of them:
•Advanced methods of cataract surgery
•Specialist treatment of brain & spinal disease
•Pioneering cancer research
• Use of MRI & nuclear scintigraphy for investigation of equine orthopaedic disease
•Genetic tests for blindness, metabolic disease, deafness and epilepsy
•Development of vaccines for canine distemper, equine influenza and duck hepatitis
• Leadership of the international project to map the equine genome
•Production of diagnostic blood test to screen for Strangles in horses
4. Why is the AHT situated in Newmarket?
The Animal Health Trust is located in Newmarket because the land on which it stands was donated to the Trust by a very generous supporter. The offer of 140 acres of land, including Lanwades Hall and other buildings, helped provide the foundation of the thriving organisation the AHT is today. Thankfully, it is an area served by good transport networks, being close to the A14 which leads to the M11. Newmarket is particularly appropriate for our Centre for Equine Studies because it is the Headquarters of Thoroughbred racing, training and breeding.
5. Does the AHT have regional branches?
No, although its supporters live throughout the UK (some overseas, too) and although its receives referrals from veterinary surgeries the length and breadth of the UK, the AHT is based on one site.
6. How many animals does the AHT help each year?
In a typical year the Small Animal clinic will treat more than 3,000 animals and the Equine Clinic close to 1,000.
7. Does the AHT only treat dogs, cats and horses?
Primarily, yes. In the veterinary world, Small Animals refers to dogs and cats alone rather than any animal which is small, and the Equine Clinic just treats horses. However, on the odd occasion we have had a few slightly more exotic creatures popping in for treatment, including a leopard and a sealion with cataracts, a marmoset with an ulcer on his eye, a sickly snake and a wounded wallaby!
Sometimes, vets will refer other ‘small’ animals to us – we do sometimes get rabbits, for example, with conditions not treatable by the local veterinary practice, but on the whole, we focus on dogs, cats and horses.
8. How do you decide which animals to treat and what is your policy on putting animals to sleep?
At the Animal Health Trust, we offer treatments for a huge range of animal ailments, from neurological and orthopaedic problems, to skin and eye problems and cancer.
With illnesses such as cancer, our main goal is to improve the dog, cat or horse’s quality of life and then, when possible, increase length of life. However, the second is never at the expense of the first.
9. Can I bring my pet to the AHT for treatment?
All animals treated at the Animal Health Trust are referred by veterinary surgeons in practice. We are not able to take bookings from owners directly. Most of our cases are either too advanced or complex to be treated in general practice; or they require the specialist facilities available at AHT.
10. Does the AHT do any work overseas?
The AHT is keen for animals around the world to benefit from the knowledge gained at the Trust. To achieve this, they train veterinary surgeons from overseas and many of the scientists and vets at AHT visit other countries to share their knowledge and teach specific laboratory or clinical procedures.
11. Does the AHT work with other charities?
Yes, the AHT works extensively with other charities, veterinary and scientific organisations, and has a long history of doing so. Collaboration is a key element in all that we do, from strategic planning to specific projects.
Equine charities that we have worked with include World Horse Welfare, the Horse Trust, Bransby Home of Rest for Horses and the British Horse Society (BHS). For example our two year campaign against the disease Strangles was run jointly with the BHS and received generous funding from the Horse Trust.
For several years we ran a project with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. We have always had close ties with the Kennel Club and its Charitable Trust, which supports several projects including our canine genetics research. Other charities and organisations with which we liaise closely include the Dogs Trust and the Pet Plan Charitable Trust. We also communicate regularly with breed clubs and societies.
Several of our main long-term projects, such as those involving infectious diseases, are carried out in partnership with other centres of veterinary excellence such as the Royal Veterinary College and the Cambridge University Veterinary School.
12. Can I get my puppies’ hearing tested at the AHT?
Yes. At the AHT we run a hearing clinic, where puppies and dogs can be given the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test to check their hearing.
‘At risk’ breeds tend to be Dalmatians, Border Collies, Bull Terriers, English Setters and Tibetan Terriers, although any predominantly white puppy could potentially have a problem. Anyone with a litter of ‘at risk’ puppies should call our Small Animal Clinic to make an appointment, or, if you would like to talk to someone about the tests or just like some more information, you can speak to our Neurology Technician, Julia Freeman, who will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
We can also perform the tests on adult dogs. Any new owners can bring in their pet to be tested, and breeders are encouraged to have their animals tested to ensure they are breeding from two ‘normal hearing’ dogs.
If you have re-homed a potentially ‘at risk’ breed, again, we can carry out this test.
13. Can I visit the AHT?
Visitors are very welcome. The AHT Visitors’ Centre is open to the public Monday - Friday from 9.30 am and 4.30 pm. There is a coffee shop in the Visitors’ Centre which serves tea, coffee, light meals and excellent cakes.
Unfortunately, for reasons of hygiene, safety and patient confidentiality, visitors are not permitted to visit the clinics, laboratories or administration blocks unless part of an official tour party arranged by a club, society or other organisation.
14. Can I volunteer with the AHT?
Due to the very specific nature of our veterinary work, we cannot accept volunteers to work with the animals in the clinics. However, we are always happy to receive offers of help at some of our fundraising events at race meetings, horse trials, dog shows or similar events. Check our Events page to see if we have an event in your area or telephone our fundraising department on 01638 555648 for further information or to be added to our Volunteer list.
You could, of course, put yourself forward to head up a network of volunteers in your region and co-ordinate fundraising activities in your area. If you are interested in forming one of these “Regional Committees” we would be delighted to discuss this with you. Again, please contact fundraising on the above number.
15. How can I fundraise for the AHT?
There are a number of ways in which you could raise funds on our behalf and we suggest some of them here. However, these are only suggestions. In our experience, volunteer fundraisers have more success - and more fun - if they choose a method that suits their situation and personality or, indeed, if they come up with their own idea. So please give the options some thought and discuss them with family and friends if you wish.
In the past people have:
- held a coffee morning, cheese and wine party, cake sale or some such enticing event
- organised a sponsored dog walk or horse ride for themselves and others
- undertaken a sponsored task – a swim, a run, a walk, a dressing up day
- involved the members of a club or society to which they belong in a fundraising event, for example donating part of a dog show entry fee, or holding a raffle
- made a collection among family, friends or work colleagues. (We can provide you with an official collection box and guidelines on its use.)
- raised funds in memory of a beloved pet which may have special appeal at this Festive Time of year and could provide an alternative to traditional Christmas presents
- given a family member or friend the gift of being an Friend of the Animal Health Trust. (Effectively, this is a £25 donation in their name.)
- encouraged others to find out more about our work, our Friends scheme and our Will-writing service
- made donations tax effectively through Gift Aid or CAF accounts
If you require any help in terms of resources, for example some of our literature, or would simply like to discuss your fundraising plans, please do not hesitate to telephone a member of the Fundraising Department on 01638 555648.
16. I am a vet. How can I help the AHT?
The AHT is actively involved in researching a number of animal diseases (details of many of these are on our web site). If you are interested in helping with any specific projects we are undertaking, or would be prepared to consider helping in the future in any way, please contact us.
Through its Small Animal and Equine clinics, the AHT offers a first-class friendly and compassionate referral service. Clinical cases are also an important resource for ongoing and future studies of animal disease. Please consider referring cases to our clinics, where in return we will aim to provide you with a responsive and rapid clinical service.
The AHT also relies on public support - would you consider displaying client information about the AHT in your waiting room? If so please contact us.
17. How can I find out more about your finances?
For more information on the Animal Health Trust finances, please click on About Us>AHT Accounts, where you will be able to access our annual review, financial statements and our trustees report.
18. Who is on your Board of Trustees?
Her Majesty The Queen
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal KG KT GCVO QSO
Honorary Vice Presidents
The Rt Hon the Lord Fairhaven KStJ JP DL
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
The Lady Vestey SRN
The Lord Kirkham CVO (Deputy President)
Sir JD Spurling KCVO OBE (Honorary Treasurer)
Mr D R Ellis BVetMed DEO FRCVS
Ms R E Flynn BA (Hons)
Professor CJ Gaskell BVSc PhD DVR MRCVS
Mr P H Locke BVSc MRCVS
Professor AC Minson BSc PhD FMedSci
Mr H Salwey CBE TD TL
Professor DBA Silk MD AGAF FRCP
Sir John Skehel FRS FMedSci
Mr J Whalley
19. How can I apply for a job or a research post with the AHT?
To have a look at our current vacancies, please click here. In this section, you will also find training opportunities listed and the benefits of working with us at the AHT. You can also take a look at our mission statement and find out a bit more about life at the AHT from the people who know it best – the staff.
President (Ex officio)
1991 Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal KG KT GCVO QSO
1992 HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
2003 The Rt Hon the Lord Fairhaven KStJ JP DL (formerly Council member since 1989)
2004 The Lady Vestey SRN (formerly Council member since 1994)
Deputy President (Ex officio)
2003 The Lord Kirkham CVO
(formerly Council member 92/93/97/99/2002)
Honorary Treasurer (Ex officio)
99 Sir J D Spurling KCVO OBE
Appointed Tenure completes
29.05.13 28.05.18 Mr D R Ellis BVetMed DEO FRCVS
26.05.15 25.05.20 Ms R E Flynn BA (Hons)
29.05.14 28.05.19 Professor C J Gaskell CBE BVSc PhD DVR MRCVS
12.05.11 11.05.16 Mr P H Locke BVSc MRCVS
29.05.13 28.05.18 Professor AC Minson BSc PhD FMedSci
26.05.15 25.05.20 Mr H Salwey CBE TD DL
29.05.14 28.05.19 Professor D B A Silk MD AGAF FRCP
29.05.12 28.05.17 Sir John Skehel FRS FMedSci
22.09.10 21.09.15 Mr J Whalley