Over the Christmas period, most people are able to take a break – even if just a few days – to celebrate (or not!), relax, and recharge. This year especially, I think we all need a few “down days” to escape the world and recharge for 2023! However, not everyone’s able to do that. And so I’d like to raise a (virtual) glass to everyone who’s going to be on duty over the holidays to care for animals.

While you doubtless know who you are; there are a number of groups I really want to give a shout out to.

Farmers, Yard Staff, Zookeepers and Curators

Animals may or may not know it’s Christmas, but whether it is or not, they still need to be fed, checked, and their housing cleaned. Whether that’s cows that need to be milked, giraffes that need their forage, lions that need enrichment, horses that need exercise, someone’s got to do it! And if you’ve ever worked on a farm (especially a hill farm), you’ll know that the term “mild winter” is entirely relative, when the wind-chill hits and the rain gets inside your waterproofs!

Animal rescue centres

The same applies to dogs, cats, rabbits, wildlife, and other animals in a rescue or rehoming centre over Christmas. There are too many different ones to call them all out. But a special mention to the RSPCA rescue centre staff (especially everyone at West Hatch!). And the teams at the Dogs Trust and the local Cats Protection.


Across the UK, vets and nurses volunteer their time to StreetVet to provide free veterinary care to people suffering homelessness. They do incredible work on a shoestring, sorting everything from preventative medicine to a shoulder to cry on to complex medical and surgical treatments. And over the holidays they’ll be out and about trying to stop homeless peoples’ animals falling through the cracks. They do great work and it’s during their time off from their “day job” too.

Vets on call

All across the country, there will be teams of vets, nurses and support staff gearing up to provide emergency and critical care to animals. 24/7 care is an obligation on the UK veterinary profession, and it’s one we should be proud of. In many countries, vets shut up shop over the holidays and leave desperate owners hunting for somewhere to go. But every UK practice will have arrangements for an out of hours provider. If you ring them, even if they’re not open, you’ll be directed to the emergency care centre. 

Doing “on call” or “night duty” work isn’t always fun. The hours are definitely unsocial, people are desperate and stressed, and the animals we see are often the sickest of the sick. But they’ll be there, in case they’re needed; farm and equine vets on call, small animal vets either on call or in a hospital facility waiting for the phone to ring. I’ve been there and I salute you.

Vetlife volunteers

Being a vet is often a stressful job which puts significant burdens on mental health. That’s why I also want to bring attention to the Vetlife volunteers; who will be manning the phones over the Christmas period. 24/7 there’s always someone on the end of the phone for a veterinary professional to call and talk to when it all seems too difficult.

All animal owners!

You all know that when you have a pet, or are an animal guardian or parent, that their needs must be met, day or night. You’re up feeding and caring for them, worrying if they don’t seem right, and making sure the house is safe for them over the festive season. Well done – and here’s to 2023!