Wassenaarders.nl | Looking back at fifty years of animal rescue in The Hague

The Animal Hospital and Ambulance Service’s s-Gravenhage celebrates its 50th anniversary this year! Yvonne Van Laar and Edwin de Beer, who together have more than fifty years of experience in the institution, talk about their experiences over the years. At the start of their careers in 1995, they were all-round employees. Presently, Edwin is the head of the ambulance service and Yvonne works as the head of animal care at the hospital.

The 50th Anniversary of Animal Ambulance is a great opportunity to talk to these seasoned workers about their experiences. What was the hospital like in their early days? How many ambulances were there at that time? What are the differences in organization between the past and the present?

One counter where it all happened

Both fellows started in 1995 at a brand new hospital. “Everything is glowing,” remembers Edwin. “There were two cat rooms, a kennel for the dogs, a few office spaces, and a hallway.” Yvonne: “There was one office in that hall and everything happened there. It was the reception and place for cell phone (not to be confused with cellphone) and landline., next door. We didn’t have rooms for birds and then there was the ashtray that was always full. Yes You can’t imagine it now, but then there were colleagues smoking while they were talking to someone.”

Edwin: “In the morning I started cleaning the barns and tending the animals. It had to be finished before 10:00.” “If I was lucky, I was with more people to do all the jobs. Sometimes you weren’t so lucky and you worked in pairs,” adds Yvonne. Edwin continues: “After taking care of the animals, I started the phone service or drove the ambulance. Until about six. Then I fed the animals and took care of them again. From the beginning, the ambulance was also moving in the evening. If you’re on a night shift, after your day shift” . Yvonne: “From the beginning there was a shortage of staff. So there was no shortage of overtime.”

Follow the memories. Yvonne starts and Edwin adds or vice versa.

From mobile phone to mobile phone

Much has changed in the field of communication. Edwin: “Then we worked with the mobile phone and the roadmap.” Yvonne: “The mobile was on a public channel. Everyone listens. That’s why we gave the driver only very brief information.” Nowadays it is much smoother with cell phones, navigation and even tracking and tracing. The operator can see exactly where each ambulance is.

Edwin: “The mobile phone has changed a lot. People no longer have to wait until they get home to call a sick or injured animal, so the number of reports has increased rapidly. An absolute increase in animal care.” The enterprise has grown.

The riding area has also expanded with Zoetermeer and Pijnacker-Nootdorp. Over the years, there has been a constant search for improvements in organization, labor and therefore animal welfare. Sometimes by expansion, sometimes by specialization. It happened again a few years ago. Edwin: “We’ve had a lot of staff. Of course that costs money. Now we’re working with more volunteers we’re training to become good drivers and centrals. There aren’t as many real players left as in the past.”

Animal ambulance in the computer age

Yvonne: “The computer has also changed a lot. We used to write everything and not record everything. Now the animal ambulance is almost a computer-controlled organization. Everything is better organized for animals and humans.” Edwin: “Recording everything we do is important. We want to be accountable to all the parties we work with who support us.” Yvonne: “We can introduce many people to what we do via social media. And if pets can be placed, we quickly find a new owner via Facebook and the website. That was different. Some of the cats were with us for a year, before they were posted.”

Together for the animals

25 years of working with humans and animals brings many stories with them. Edwin: “I could tell of an adventure about every street in The Hague. We come from Huis ten Bosch to Schilderswijk and are greeted everywhere.” Yvonne: “Places where you had to put socks up over your pants because fleas jumped on you when you got in. Or a cow on the highway, which we had to pick up with a rope. It was so strong it almost pulled the side of a Rijkswaterstaat or hundreds of Moa geese that we had to catch.” Edwin: “That was a wise lesson: You can lift two swans, they do nothing with their beaks. It works differently with geese…” Yvonne: “You had one hanging in your cheek.”

Edwin: “Overall, I’ve never been hesitant to go to work. I always work with a smile.” Yvonne continues: “I think it’s great to mean something to the animals. You work together on a team with such nice colleagues and great volunteers. You make sure that the animals leave the house healthy and relaxed, even the misery heaps that sometimes come along. You do it in a great work environment” . Adds Edwin: “A lot has changed for the better. We’ve turned it into a real company. I’m proud of the jobs we’ve done. Especially the many people we’ve been able to train and all the knowledge we’ve passed on.” Yvonne: “Actually! Very special when you look back at how we started and where we are now. With so many dedicated donors and volunteers supporting and working with us. Everything for the animals, that’s great!”

Want to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Animal Relief? Everyone is welcome to Oosterbeek 5 base on Saturday 24th September from 12:00 to 17:00! There is a market filled with animal items, special organizations, music, guided tours, workshops, and more.

For the full programme, see www.dierenambulancedenhaag.nl/50jaar

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