Fear Free is a certification program for veterinary professionals and veterinary clinics. The Fear Free organization was founded in 2016, by Dr. Marty Becker. Their website states: “Fear Free has become one of the single most transformative initiatives in the history of companion animal practice, providing unparalleled education on emotional wellbeing, enrichment, and the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets and improving the experience of every human and pet involved.” Please visit their website for lots of information: Fearfreepets.com
So, you see that the organization was founded in 2016…. obviously, there are many of us in the veterinary community that were practicing techniques that decrease stress in pets (and their people) before 2016. The wonderful thing about Fear Free is that they created an organizational structure that defines what Fear, Anxiety, and Stress (FAS) parameters are and an objective approach to handling FAS. And now you can find veterinary professionals that care about your pet’s emotional well-being, as well as their physical well-being because we invested time in becoming certified in the skills that do just that!
As a Fear Free Certified Practice, we went even further to take FAS reduction into account when we designed our clinic. The flooring, the colors, the kennel types, the feline only wing, these things are requirements for a Fear Free Certified practice and they make us better at what we do. When you walk into the clinic, it doesn’t smell like animals are here (unless there was an incident right before your arrival). The exam rooms are large, two of them don’t have exam tables to accommodate larger dogs or multiple dogs. “The Back” is open to clients to see where your pets will have procedures done, recover, hang out if you need to drop them off on your way to work. If you have a cat, the goal is that they never see a dog. There is a feline only exam room and feline only treatment area. The felines have the only exam room with a window, it’s my favorite spot in the clinic, so I will spend as much time as I can sitting on the floor being friends with your cat 😊
The entire staff is also Fear Free educated and certified. They LOVE the Fear Free approach to pet care. Primary thing you will notice is SNACKS! Peanut Butter, Cheese, Crispy Treats, Soft Treats! And smooches and scritches and just lots of lovin’! Our goal is for your pet to have no idea they “got shots!” Lots of distraction, lots of snacks, from the perspective of your pet, lots of fun!
For those pets that are anxious when they visit the vet, we have strategies for them as well. We move slowly, we don’t rush in making eye contact and being loud. We offer treats and let them come to us. We assess body language to determine the signals your pet is sending. We can learn a great deal from ear posture, tail posture, licking, panting, eye movement. These signals are very important and should not be ignored.
Sometimes the first appointment may just be a get to know us “Happy Visit.” We want to get to know you and your pet to make the best choices for their emotional well-being.
Becoming Fear Free Certified standardized the veterinary approach I have always practiced. I don’t want to smash your pet on the table or scruff your cat. I want to be their friend. Upon initial meeting, I try to remember to introduce myself to the humans in the room, but I typically revert to my 8 year old self and try to be friends with your pet. That’s the joy. Even if they aren’t feeling well, and we are working together to find solutions to illness or injury, they are special creatures that need to be loved.