Pets in the Park

The Pets in the Park Program provides basic veterinary care to the animals of Sydney’s homeless. I recently paid a visit.

The Darlinghurst Pets in the Park is held in the grounds of a church, a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Kings Cross. I wandered in and found myself talking to Duncan, whose Ridgeback Cross, Princess, graces the cover of this  month’s AVJ.

Duncan is most impressed by the Program.

“What an excellent service! It’s my first time here and I’m very, very happy and will definitely be back,” he said as  Princess played with a Staffordshire Terrier.

How the program works

Each pet owner requires a referral from a human services organisation or agency to visit the clinic. This ensures that those being seen really are Sydney’s homeless and severely disadvantaged.

The first thing clients do when they arrive at Pets in the Park is check in with the friendly folk at the entrance to the  grounds.

They’re then approached by a veterinarian or veterinary nurse to assess the needs of their pet.

The pets are provided with a basic veterinary health check and, if required, some donated pet food and accessories (like  dog collars, leads and cushions). They are also vaccinated, given flea and worm treatments, and dispensed basic  medications and medicated shampoos if required.

I found a busy and enthusiastic Dr Mark Westman near the examination tables. Dr Westman started Pets in the Park in  2009 by taking a fold up table and an esky to a small park in Western Sydney’s Parramatta to offer free veterinary health  checks for the animals of the homeless that were there to attend an outreach program.

Following a successful start in Parramatta, he joined forces with veterinary nurse and TAFE teacher, Vicki Cawsey,  professional photographer and veterinary nurse Linda Warlond, and veterinarian Leah Skelsey, to start the Pets in the Park  Program in the inner-city.

“It’s all of these wonderful volunteers and the support from our corporate partners that makes Pets in the Park possible,” Dr Westman said.

“I’m really keen to enhance the program and ensure more of those in need can access our support services.

“To do this, we need more volunteers and venues across Sydney so Pets in the Park can be easily accessible to those in  need.

“At the moment most of the vets and vet nurses volunteer for a few hours every month or two. I have an attitude of more  the merrier though!” he said.

Since volunteers first converged on the grounds of the Darlinghurst church in September last year, Pets in the Park has:

  • become a registered charity with tax-deductible giving status
  • garnered the support of a number of industry partners
  • including, Virbac Animal Heath, Hanrob Pet Hotels, Princess Highway Veterinary Hospital, Jurox and Advanced Anaesthesia Specialists
  • started a de-sexing clinic.

And most importantly, Pets in the Park has supported hundreds of animals that otherwise wouldn’t have been provided  with veterinary care.  It’s truly a remarkable program made possible by its volunteers, corporate supporters and the  public’s donations.

Volunteering – Sydney

Vets, vet nurses and administrative staff wanting to volunteer a small amount of their time should contact the Pets in the  Park team by emailing

Pets in the Park’s first charity gala dinner is being held at the Menzies Sydney Hotel on 14 November and tickets are on  sale now. Visit the Pets in the Park website for more information

Inspired and want to start something in your area?

If you’re outside of Sydney, are interested in driving the program in your area and would like advice and support, please  visit the Pets in the Park website for more information and contact the team on They’re very keen to share their ample experience.

Darlinghurst and Parramatta Pets in the Park programs are held from 3–5pm on the last Sunday each month.

Emma Malcolm
Communication and Marketing Manager

This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

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