Warrington vet who once helped sedate a lion is roaring forward in his career

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A WARRINGTON vet who hails from South Africa and once helped sedate a lion has been appointed as a new divisional partner for an independent veterinary group.

Pieter de Villiers, one of the lead vets at Beech House Veterinary Surgery, was born and raised in Potchefstroom, a town in South Africa’s North-West province.

In his latest career highlight, he has been named as a small animal divisional partner for Willows Veterinary Group – an independent organisation run by vets – which operates 24 small animal practices, a referral veterinary hospital, two equine centres and a five-office farm practice across Cheshire and into Greater Manchester, the Wirral and Staffordshire.

He qualified as a vet in 1990 from Pretoria University in Gauteng Province and part of his earlier career in South Africa was spent working for international animal health giant Virbac in a marketing role which saw him working with keepers in the region’s game reserves.

Pieter, 50, who is married to Stephanie, an earth scientist, and has a son called Pierre, recalled the time he was involved in a night time mission to catch a lion and said: “You do feel apprehensive when you are involved in catching a lion. The keepers play sounds of a lion eating to attract them.”

Pieter then explained how the animal is then sedated with a dart gun from a distance so that game keepers can assess the animal’s health safely, taking samples for further analysis and if necessary tagging them for future identification.

Pieter added: “You need to be absolutely sure that that lion is deep asleep before you make any approach!

“They are phenomenally powerful creatures. My vet friend was attacked by a cub once and he was left with some nasty injuries to his arms.

“The other thing you wouldn’t realise without getting so close is that they smell rather bad, like rotten meat, and that is not because something is wrong with them, but because they will often feed on carrion.

“You have to always wear gloves as well when you are dealing with them because the skin of a lion is covered in tape-worms segments which you can end up with if you don’t wear gloves. Their skin is really greasy too.”

But Pieter is more used to looking after and treating smaller, more domesticated creatures now at the busy Warrington surgery in Wilderspool Causeway which is open seven days a week and sees almost 100 animal patients a day.

Pieter said: “I love animals and have done since I was very young. I like seeing things improve and I like to make things better but not unrealistically and I always strive to do what is in the animal’s best interests.

“I think the owners appreciate that and I like them to feel that when they come to Beech House, they have my undivided attention during their consultation because it is important that I listen to them to get to the bottom of what is troubling them and more importantly, their much loved pet.”

His career in the UK started Pieter was offered a good job opportunity in North Wales.

He had been touring England and Wales with his wife on their second visit to the UK.

Pieter said: “We had come to St Andrews in Scotland the year before for my wife to attend a geography workshop and had travelled round a bit and liked what we saw.

“During our return trip, on holiday, I visited a few veterinary practices to look at possible job opportunities. A practice in North Wales was desperate for me to start as soon as possible and I was more than happy to apply for the necessary visas. In fact we were due to be on a flight back to South Africa the following day but we decided to postpone it and give a new life in the UK a go. We have been here for 14 years now!

“Believe it or not, we like the weather. We love to see the change in seasons which if you live in Pretoria, you don’t have. It can get a bit cold and wet sometimes but we have adapted.”

Pieter has worked for several different veterinary groups since coming to the UK but has felt most at home while working with Willows Veterinary Group and so is pleased to be making such an important career move with the organisation.

He said: “It’s a huge privilege to be asked to be a small animal divisional partner for Willows Veterinary Group. As a group, it has a very positive, team feeling and there is a very strong emphasis on client service and the best interests of our patients which is very important to me.

“It will give me the opportunity to develop personally and as a veterinarian. I am looking forward to contributing to its continued success.”

For more information about Beech House go to www.warringtonvets.co.uk

For more information about Willows Veterinary Group go to www.willowsvetgroup.co.uk

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