Are Fear-Free Veterinary Practices Practical?

Dog trainer Jill Breitner says fear-free veterinary clinics are “the only way to go.” But are they practical for the everyday veterinary practice?


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Jill Breitner, a professional dog trainer and author of the Dog Decoder app is telling pet owners that fear-free veterinary clinics as the "only way to go."

In an article for our sister Dogster, Breitner recommends fear-free clinics because pets are "unnecessarily traumatized." As she writes:

"What goes on behind closed doors in some veterinary practices is not a pleasant topic to talk about, yet it needs attention. It needs attention because of the lack of education most veterinarians and their staff have in how to read and handle signs of stress and fear in dogs. There are no required courses in veterinary school that teach body language, behavior, or safe handling of animals, so they are not to blame. With limited time to get the veterinary tasks done, our pets suffer needlessly. Thankfully, though, as we continue to be a more aware and educated society regarding our dogs, veterinarians are being called upon to learn better practices."

The fear-free movement is a growing trend in the veterinary world, with veterinarians like Marty Becker, DVM, and Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, calling for the change.

But is it practical? As one Facebook user, Mistie Pruitt, says, "My practice tries really hard. We use distractions, treats, happy talk, less-is-more approach to restraint, etc… But there are some things mentioned in this article that just wouldn't work in a busy practice."

She pointed out issues with space as well as safety.

"… there's the owners who think we are being mean when we have to use a muzzle or lay their pet on their side. We have to be safe because we can't do our jobs when we're bleeding from our hands, arms, face, etc… The very first time I got bit really bad (still sporting the scars across my cheek, neck, chest, and arm) was when, in attempt to appease a client who didn't want her dog to be 'man handled' I was not restraining properly. The dog twisted himself around while snapping and barking. The owner was standing behind me so I had nowhere to go. It seemed like forever before the owner realized what was happening and got out of the way. I got to spend hours at the ER being stitched back together because of that.

Pruitt adds, "While I do believe that all clinics should make every effort to make things as non-stressful as they can, those not in the industry need to understand that it's not always possible."

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What do you think? Is a fear free practice practical for you?

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