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Animal Hospital began as Animal Hospital Live, a twice-daily report on events at the RSPCA Harmsworth Memorial Animal Hospital in Holloway, London, in August 1994.
The reports ran for five days only, but viewer response to the heart-warming (and sometimes heart-rending) tales of pet woes was so great that a Christmas Day special followed, then a full series in January 1995.
Entitled Animal Hospital Week, it highlighted happenings over seven days at the hospital.
Harmsworth, named after Sir Harold Harmsworth and funded by the RSPCA, takes care of animals whose owners are on benefit and cannot meet veterinary charges, and it also looks after wild animals brought in by caring members of the public.
The series proved to be a mixed blessing for the hospital: on the one hand, it sent out a clear message about animal welfare, but on the other it caused the hospital to be inundated with injured pets whose owners could and should have paid for treatment elsewhere.
Chief vet David Grant was the human star, while celebrity patients included Snowy the poodle and Dolly the bull terrier.
In 1995 the title was simplified to Animal Hospital and a 10-minute bulletin for younger viewers was added to the children’s BBC Christmas schedules.
At Christmas that year a special, Animal Hospital Down Under, saw host Rolf Harris return to his homeland to visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland (Rolf also popped back to Australia in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics for the two-part Animal Hospital In Oz).