This Morning vet Scott Miller on the chickens that made him a TV star
- Credit: Scott Miller
As Dr Scott Miller celebrates 25 years as a clinical veterinarian, he tells us about the Big Brother chickens that kickstarted his UK television career, the secrets of puppy parenting and finding his dream home in Ottershaw. Words by Rebecca Pitcairn
There aren’t many jobs that would involve spending the morning herding up a couple of lovebird penguins as they waddle about a live TV studio, but that’s a pretty average working day for Surrey-based vet Dr Scott Miller.
'Pringle and Ferrari have been "dating" for seven years and usually live at the zoological park in the Cotswolds but came onto the show today and captured everyone’s hearts,' he tells us.
The same-sex penguins were part of a feature he had just been filming as the resident vet on ITV’s This Morning. The charismatic 47-year-old has been a regular on the show for 20 years, answering viewers pet problems in a segment that often sees the presenters get a lot more than they bargained for.
'There are always incidents of pee or poop on the carpet or occasional escapees,’ he says. 'But I love the pandemonium and the craziness of it all. It’s fun and light-hearted.'
Scott had his first taste of television notoriety back in his native Australia in the late 1990s. After graduating from the University of Queensland Veterinary School at the age of just 22, he went on to work at RSPCA Sydney Veterinary Hospital, which at the time was the country’s largest veterinary practice and the subject of popular TV series Animal Hospital.
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‘I’d wanted to be a vet since the age of seven – as soon as I worked out all the dinosaurs were extinct and I couldn’t work with them, I decided the next best thing was animals and nothing has ever put me off that path,' he says. 'RSPCA was a real All Creatures Great and Small experience and was where I first saw the meld between working in media and being a practicing vet.’
But Scott’s first TV appearance here in the UK was quite accidental. After travelling to the UK, initially on a two-year working holiday, he fell in love with the country and began working in a surgery in East London, where he received a rather unusual phone call one day.
'It was about some sick chickens, which we thought was a little odd – to have chickens in the middle of East London – but then it transpired the house wasn’t a traditional house, it was the Big Brother house,' he explains.
It was the first series of the popular Channel 4 show, which involved gathering a group of strangers to live together and be filmed around the clock on live TV as a social experiment.
'I went in a couple of times to look after Marjorie the chicken and I am now the subject of a Trivia Pursuit question as the first ever non-Big Brother contestant to be on the show,’ Scott laughs.
His charm, commitment and charisma did not no go unnoticed among viewers and the show’s producers. As such, Scott soon landed stints on programmes such as Blue Peter, The Paul O’Grady Show and This Morning.
In 2015, he was given his own show for Channel 4, Vet on the Hill, which ran for five series and followed the highs and lows of life at his Richmond Hill practice (he also has clinics in St Margaret’s and Isleworth). For any animal lover, it makes for emotional viewing.
‘It ran for 55 episodes and documented some amazing highs but viewers also got to see the pressures we face in the clinical world,' he says. 'There are not many professions where you have to put to sleep someone’s loved one on a daily basis. But you get experienced in talking people through what is usually the most difficult decision of their lives. What I hold on to is that we are advocating for the player in the situation that doesn’t have a voice.'
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Scott admits that the past couple of years during the pandemic has been a particularly tough time for the industry due to a shortage in veterinary care that has been exacerbated by an influx of ‘lockdown pets’.
'During the pandemic, everyone has been reminded of how important relationships are with animals and pets and the unconditional love they have given to so many people suffering with anxiety during lockdown has been immeasurable,' he says. 'But that’s brought with it a huge amount of pressure due to a shortage of vets and a massive increase in our workload.'
It’s one reason Scott has recently released an updated version of his book, Puppy Parenting: An Expert Guide on What to Do and When to Do It. Originally published back in 2007, the no-nonsense guide documented the trials and tribulations of raising his own troublesome terrier, Betty, who sadly passed away in 2014 at the age of 14.
'That was my first dive into parenting full stop,’ Scott remembers. 'As a vet you know how to fix an animal but not necessarily how to raise them, so I learnt a lot through that process and I think it taught me how to be a more empathetic vet.'
The new version has been fully updated with more tips and tricks Scott has learned over the years as he and his TV presenter wife, Zoe, have grown their brood of animals and children.
'I have three daughters aged 12, 10 and three, a seven-year-old son and a dog called Skully, who I actually delivered by caesarean section and the owners were so relieved and grateful that they offered her to us. Her full name is Skull Crusher, which is no reflection on her temperament but it’s what the kids wanted to name her,' he laughs. 'We also have two cats, three rescue tortoises, three chickens and a rescue hedgehog, so it’s a busy household.'
Originally settling in Twickenham, where Zoe is from, the Millers moved to Ottershaw five years ago because they 'yearned for somewhere greener' and Scott says they feel incredibly lucky to live there, despite it taking some time to realise their dream home.
'We absolutely love it here, we’re right by Chobham Common so I go running in the forest with the dog a lot,’ he says. ‘And the house is almost done. It’s taken us 2.5 years to renovate through lockdown but it has been worth it. It’s such a joyful thing to have our dream house with all the space we need to enjoy life with the kids and animals.'
In terms of what’s next for Scott, he says this year will involve a lot more travel, first to Costa Rica for This Morning and then to his homeland of Australia to film some special editions of the YouTube show Bondi Vet.
'We’ll be filming everything from snakes and spiders to crocodiles and koalas,' he says. 'I’m expecting the animals to be as unpredictable as ever so I’m sure we’ll have great fun. Choosing to work with animals and TV may not have been the smartest profession to choose but it’s the one I’ve gone for and I absolutely love it.'
You can watch Dr Scott regularly on ITV's This Morning, weekdays from 10am, and in behind-the-scenes footage from his three clinics on the Bondi Vet YouTube channel. You can also follow him on Instagram @drscottym
Dr Scott’s favourite Surrey
Pub: The Castle, Ottershaw.
Restaurant: Piccolino in Virginia Water.
Place to unwind: Chobham Common.
Café: Ohanas, Chertsey.
Shop: The Farm Shop Lyne, Chertsey.