In many parts of the world, the blue cross is recognized as a symbol for veterinary hospitals. Although it is not well known exactly how or when the blue cross became associated with veterinarians, it may be related to the fact that the red cross has become associated with medical services for people.
In 1897, a registered charity known as “Our Dumb Friends’ League” (ODFL) was founded in the United Kingdom, and adopted the blue cross as their emblem. The author of a book about the history of the Blue Cross attributes its origin to the use of blue flags to mark old cavalry lines or to denote medical stations for horses during wars.
In response to the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the ODFL established a Blue Cross Branch and set up a Blue Cross Fund specifically to assist animals affected by conflict. Additional branches were formed in America, Canada, Australia, England, France, India, Italy and South Africa. During World War I, the Blue Cross organization was active, sending tens of thousands of horses and dogs to France. There were 12 Blue Cross base hospitals for horses in France, and 3 hospitals for dogs. A Blue Cross was prominently displayed on the sides of horse ambulances and a flag displaying a blue cross flew over the base hospitals.
It is estimated that more than 15,000 dogs were called into service by the Allies, and almost a third of them were killed or lost in action. Worldwide, it was estimated that 8 million horses died during the conflicts of World War I.
In World War II, from 1939-1945, the Blue Cross Animals Hospital in London England remained open during the blitz and helped more than 110,000 stray dogs and cats who were left homeless from the bombings.
In 2012, a memorial to all the animals that were involved in wartime combat was unveiled in Ottawa. When we remember our veterans of war, we should pay our respects to the animals who played such a vital part in the great wars of the last century.
Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Kitchener was established in Kitchener in the post-WWII era, and over the years as the city expanded it relocated several times. It has been at its current location at the corner of Frederick Street and River Road since 1996.