Pet owners clamoring for a Fear-Free approach?


Let potential veterinary clients in your community know youre making this a priority.

Ever since I first heard about the concept of Fear-Free veterinary practice from Dr. Marty Becker, I've been enthralled. Not because I'm in veterinary media and this is the “hot new thing”-at least that's not the main reason.

No, I've been enthralled because in the course of my life I have been the owner of some extremely fearful pets. And if I had been aware of a veterinary hospital in my community that made a concerted effort to minimize fear and anxiety in its patients during their trips to the clinic, I would have been beating down the door to become a client.

I hated to see my cat so frightened-it was almost physically painful. I was also a little embarrassed about how hostile she was toward the doctors and technicians who were trying to take care of her, and it didn't help when they made comments about her disposition-a demeanor I knew was completely opposite of her sweet, gentle nature at home. A clinic that was at least trying to understand where that fear was coming from and doing whatever it could to alleviate it would have had my undying, lifelong loyalty.

And I'm not the only pet owner who thinks this way. I read an article about Martha Stewart reporting that Martha lets her dogs choose their veterinarian-if they're walking toward the entrance of a veterinary clinic and one of her pets doesn't want to go in, they find a different veterinarian. Not all of us may go to the extreme Martha does (with our pets or our baked goods), but we do want our pets to be happy and calm as much as is possible in their all-too-brief lives.

So it's been very exciting to see the Fear-Free (or low-stress, if you prefer) movement begin to take off. But what mystifies me is that even practices that embrace it wholeheartedly don't seem to be marketing it that much. They are doing Fear-Free because it's the right thing to do and it transforms their experience of the practice of veterinary medicine, which is very noble and exciting.

But how are they letting pet owners in their communities-those folks like me, who would be thrilled to discover a practice like this in their neighborhood-know what they're all about? The practice website seems like an obvious place to start, but I've seen very little about the Fear-Free or low-stress experience on veterinary websites I've looked at. (Got a great example? I'd love to eat my words. Email me your URL at

I truly believe that Fear-Free could be the thing that draws pet owners back to veterinary practices. But they've got to know you're doing it. So go ahead and shout it from the rooftops-in your most soothing, Fear-Free voice, of course.

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