TV vet warns of Islington’s dog fighting problem

A top TV vet has warned that urgent action is needed curb the increasing number of dog attacks in Islington, as he prepares for his last Christmas on the front line.

David Grant, 68, has been head of Harmsworth Animal Hospital, in Sonderburg Road, Holloway, since 1972 and has announced he will retire next year after almost 30 years on the job.

The facility, one of the largest animal hospitals in the country, was made famous as the home of BBC TV show Animal Hospital, starring Rolf Harris, which ran for 10 years until 2004.

But since the television crews have left, Mr Grant feels the hospital has been forgotten as it struggles to cope with animal cruelty and the ever-growing problem of status dogs and dog attacks in the borough.

He said the sheer volume of injured animals that pass through the doors would have swamped the hospital if not for charity All Dogs Matter, which works to rehouse the dogs.

He said: “The problem isn’t going to go away unless we have proper dog licences and give the wardens better resources.

“There has always been neglect, but this fighting is new and has increased so much in the last five years. People have realised they can get away with it.

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“Having a dog is less risk to them than carrying a knife and police can take a dog away but can’t ban you from having one.

“Some villains are on their fifth animal. Impoverished kids and big dogs are a pretty toxic mix.

“I am too old for this now – some young guns need to take over. This will be my last Christmas, and it is always a tough time because the old adage rings true – some people just a get a dog for Christmas. We always see more abandoned dogs in the new year.

“When I leave I’ll miss the staff – the team here are wonderful – but not the cruelty to animals.”

Mr Grant has been no stranger to being in the trenches when it comes to animal welfare – within 48 hours of graduation as a vet he was drafted in to help out in the first Foot and Mouth crisis.

He also speaks fondly of the days when Rolf Harris and his team were camped out at Harmsworth. He said: “It was a tough at first, working around them, but we soon got used to it. “It was a great profile raiser as well and people made donations. We could do with another one to be honest – I think people have forgotten about us.”