2005 Winners




Results were announced today for the 2005 Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards, a national award programme which invited pet owners and members of the public to write nominations and stories about the work of their veterinary services.   Organised by Pfizer Animal Health in association with the Irish Veterinary Journal, the top Irish award winners for the 6th annual awards are:


  • The Overall Winners of the 2005 Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards are Riverside Veterinary Hospital, based at Davitt’s Quay, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.


  • The Stronghold Category Award for the Top Veterinary Nurse was awarded to Orla Brennan from Bridge House Veterinary Clinic, Coes Rd., Dundalk, Co Louth.


  • The Stronghold Category Award for the Top Individual Vet was awarded to Ann Quinn from Erkina Veterinary, Ballybuggy, Rathdowney, Co Laois


  • This year a Special Stronghold Judge’s Award for Contribution to Animal Welfare was also presented to Emma Higgs, veterinary nurse with the Irish Seal Sanctuary & Animal Hospital, Tobergregan, Garristown, Fingal, Co. Dublin




Riverside Veterinary Hospital received the overall winning Stronghold Perpetual trophy and a prize valued at €2,000 at the awards ceremony officiated by RTE newscaster Sharon Ni Bheolain, which took place in Castleknock in Dublin today (Sunday 27th November, 2005).


The Riverside veterinary and nursing team was represented at the national awards ceremony by vets Patrick Morrissey and Donal O’Mahony, practice manager Helen Walsh, vet nurse Helen Gould and colleague Trish Fitzgerald.


The Dungarvan based practice received quite a number of nominations for the Awards from members of the public.  Nominations for Riverside ranged from those quoting “knowledge and expertise”….and “cheerfulness, kindness and care….” ; to stories including a feral kitten with a badly injured foot “now a confident and happy tripod”;  or  the traumatic story of a pet cat that went missing – and whose owner found him but quickly realised that someone had tried to set fire to the pet cat.


Another pet owner – Judy Alderton from Ballinamult, Co. Waterford – has been a client of Riverside Veterinary Hospital  for many years.  She wrote that “their clinical care and expertise is outstanding…attention to hygiene and post operative care is excellent….”  However she makes the point that the entire team, from the receptionist, to the practice nurse to both vets, are “skilled, efficient, caring and compassionate,” describing how the team show “great empathy in distressing circumstances.”


Judy told how the practice helps strays, road casualties and unwanted pets and has cared for, operated on and re-homed animals in need on many occasions.  “They are an amazing team. We are fortunate to have a practice of this high calibre in such a small town as Dungarvan…”




The Stronghold National Category Award for the Top Individual Vet was awarded to Ann Quinn from Erkina Veterinary, Ballybuggy, Rathdowney, Co Laois.


Described by her nominators as “caring and dedicated” Ann  Quinn was commended for responding swiftly to emergencies and for taking time to carefully explain illnesses, treatment options and procedures.


Included in one of Ann’s nominations was the story of a rook that had been shot in the wing, a badly injured hedgehog, a swan found with a fishhook in its neck and an elderly St Bernard dog. When age finally caught up with this fabulous family pet, Ann came to his owner’s home and put him to sleep “with compassion, tenderness, great care and kindness…”




The Stronghold National Category Award for the Top Veterinary Nurse was awarded to Orla Brennan from Bridge House Veterinary Clinic, Coes Rd., Dundalk, Co Louth.    Orla is the first recipient of this award as it is a new category in the national comepetition.


Orla received a number of nominations with pet owners describing her as “dedicated”, “caring” and “patient with animals”, but with an “unselfish approach to her job” and someone who goes “out of her way for people.”  Nominated for her excellent nursing skills and for running the practice efficiently, examples were given from one nominator of Orla taking a sick pet home to look after it during the night.  The Louth Prevention to Cruelty to Animals nominated Orla for helping out in areas ranging from drawing up fostering forms, to her determination to “always look for solutions”.  They described one occasion where Orla helped to transport dogs to Dublin in her own car on her day off for the SPCA.




The judging panel this year also selected a candidate to receive a Special Judge’s Award for Contribution to Animal Welfare.   This award was presented to veterinary nurse Emma Higgs, who has been working full time in a voluntary capacity with the Irish Seal Sanctuary & Animal Hospital, based near Garristown, Fingal, Co. Dublin.


Emma first went to the Seal Sanctuary 7 years ago, working there voluntarily and full time for 2 years.   She returned to the Veterinary Faculty Hospital and associated practises to work and qualify as a veterinary nurse, during that time sustaining her association with the Irish Seal Sanctuary.


Having qualified and found herself in a position to earn real money, she went back to the Irish Seal Sanctuary to take on yet another season as a volunteer nurse/manager for other volunteers.


It was a time when the Irish Seal Sanctuary was facing many challenges and struggles.   Emma introduced proper veterinary record keeping and ran Ireland’s first Marine Mammal Veterinary Workshop, bringing in top marine vets.   She was also involved in developing, with Fingal Local Authorities, a National Marine Conservation Centre – with Government support of €2 million.  Until this is built, ISS remains totally reliant on voluntary effort.


Emma is nominated for continuing to advance knowledge and systems of care at the Irish Seal Sanctuary.  She is commended for “representing the best of the profession and providing freely her duty of care to those wildlife clients with no way of paying…..”




At the 2005 Stronghold Awards Ceremony, a number of vets were also Highly Commended at a national level by the judging panel.   These were:

  • Anicare Veterinary Group – the team of vets and vet nurses at their branches in Botanic Veterinary, Clontarf Veterinary and Blanchardstown in Dublin.  Nominated every year of the awards for 6 consecutive years now, vet Tanis Turley from Anicare was the national winner of the Stronghold Awards in 2001.


  • Richard Bramley, vet from Gubbins & O’Shea Veterinary in Wexford town


  • Evelyn Eustace, vet nurse with Newbridge Veterinary Hospital, Morristown, Newbridge, Co Kildare


  • Ciara Feeney, vet with the Animal Clinic Castleknock & North Circular Road, Dublin.  Ciara took 3rd prize in the 2004 Stronghold Awards and was Highly Commended in 2003.


  • Lisa O’Donovan, vet nurse with Abbeyville Veterinary Hospital in Togher, Cork


  • John O’Mahony, vet with the Animal Care Hospital, Douglas, Cork.   John, also nominated for 6 consecutive years of the Stronghold Awards, was the overall winner of the Stronghold Awards in 2002,  was placed 2nd in 2003 and was Highly Commended in 2001and 2004.


  • Terenure Veterinary Hospital team of vets and vet nurses at Whitehall Rd., Terenure, Dublin.



Speaking at the awards ceremony, organiser Brian More O’Ferrall from Pfizer Animal Health said that behind the colourful, dramatic and often sad stories written about pets and the care that they received from their vets, there were evident actions and reasons why the pet owner had been sufficiently motivated to take time and effort to submit a nomination for the Stronghold Awards.


“Not surprisingly, high standards of veterinary care and professionalism are ranked most frequently, with many other factors ranging from acts of kindness to support outside hours in the event of an emergency,” explained Brian More O’Ferrall.  “Vets are frequently commended, for instance, for taking time to explain illnesses and treatment options in layman’s terms or for providing tremendous emotional support at times when difficult decisions have to be made.”


“The Awards demonstrate just how cherished and rewarding pets are to so many people; and yet, sadly that there are still cases of unnecessary cruelty or neglect to animals in modern-day Ireland,” said Brian More O’Ferrall.


“The hundreds of nominations and stories reflect a hugely varied environment that Irish veterinarians and vet support teams work in today.  They reflect a  tremendous appreciation from the public for a veterinary profession that is skilled and professional, kind and caring.   However it also reminds us all that pet ownership is a long term responsibility involving regular care, costs and work.  Managing a pet’s health properly does not just mean visiting a vet when there is an emergency – it also means managing the daily care of your pet – such as good diet, regular exercise, vaccinations, worm and flea treatments.


Members of the public can see sample nominations and stories submitted for the 2005 Stronghold Awards on-line at www.progresspr.ie/petcare.htm