We know that there have been ‘Canine Nurses’ working at Elizabeth Street for over 100 years. Elizabeth Street patients also benefited from the skills of ‘live-in canine nurses’ at ‘The Distemper Hospital’ near Harrods, on Monpelier Place, South Kensington.
Elizabeth Street’s senior vet Frederick Cousens was a strong proponent of veterinary nursing. In 1934 he tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to recognise the term ‘Canine Nurse’. He described Elizabeth Street’s ‘Nursing Home’ as staffed with a medically qualified Hospital Matron in charge and claimed that, ‘this is the first attempt at training women nurses for dogs in this or any other country’. In that year he wrote ‘the RCVS would not entertain the idea. Of course, the Council will come round to my views, probably sooner than later.’ In fact it wasn’t until 1961 that the RCVS recognised ‘Registered Animal Nursing Auxiliaries’ or RANAs.
The nurses you meet today at Elizabeth Street are ‘Registered Veterinary Nurses’ or RVNs. This photo taken by Denys Danby in 1930 (while he was still a student at the Royal Veterinary College) shows two ‘Canine Nurses’ in the operating room at Elizabeth Street.