1. Why have you agreed to speak at the AWF Discussion Forum?
The idea of encouraging aspiring animal owners to seek advice from veterinary practices before getting a new pet is something I have discussed on several occasions with colleagues and friends from outside the profession. It seems to me to have the potential for real benefits both in terms of animal welfare and the type of experience that people have as pet owners. With this being the proposed subject area and my co-presenter being Sean Wensley how could I say No?
2. What are the key issues of your session topic and why is it important to the veterinary and animal welfare community?
Encouraging clients to visit a veterinary practice for advice before deciding to purchase an animal is something that seems very sensible to me and it’s interesting that this rarely happens. Potential pet owners seem to seek advice from breeders, friends, online communities and good old Google. Only on a handful of occasions during my 33 years in practice have I been approached to help with this and in most of those cases the people were already clients who’d had a bad experience with a previous pet e.g. behavioural or health issues that had been distressing. They sought my advice in the hope of avoiding a similar situation with their next animal.
I think that unfortunately the public only perceive veterinary practices as places to go to either when their animal is ill or for certain treatments that their pet may require to keep it healthy. Sadly, there is also a feeling that veterinary advice is always expensive and there certainly seem to be some people who mistrust the profession and consider that ‘vets are only interested in money’. I imagine it is such misconceptions that stop aspiring owners from approaching veterinary professionals before they have a need to - which is only once they already have an animal!
As a profession, if we can find ways of engaging with prospective owners it seems to me that this becomes a ‘win-win’ situation, resulting in more positive relationships between practices and their clients as well as owners and their pets, with a knock-on improvement in the welfare of animals.
We need to persuade the public to see vets differently and develop sustainable business models that help us to do this.
3. Are there any statistics, research, new developments or case studies that you can share with us about the topic?
The PDSA’s ‘Which Pet’ Toolkit is a great initiative and one that can easily be adapted for use in individual veterinary practices.
I can share the story of some clients whose first dog I sadly had to euthanase after he had badly bitten the wife. There were all sorts of reasons for this very difficult situation developing, which stemmed from a combination of him being the wrong type of dog for the home environment and a lack of understanding of dog behaviour and the training that should have been done. The owners were very distressed by what happened and, having been bitten on the face, the wife understandably lost her confidence in her interaction with dogs.
However, they really wanted another dog and, having felt well supported by our practice, decided to come and talk to me. Together we looked at the family situation, size of the house and garden, amount of time they had available, working hours etc and then considered the types of breed that might best suit those circumstances and be of good temperament. We were able to contact other clients that we knew had dogs of the chosen breed that were healthy and nice natured, as well as getting information about other breeders through the Kennel Club. The clients visited several breeders, meeting their dogs and talking to them in advance of putting their name down for a puppy.
After the puppy arrived they took my advice about training and how to understand and deal with normal, appropriate and inappropriate behaviour as well as the more ‘usual’ medical type advice. The result has been a fantastic family pet, who’s been a wonderful addition to the family, is happy and healthy...a perfect situation if you ignore her liking for rolling in fox muck and a tendency to raiding the bin!
4. What are you hoping delegates will be able to take away from your session?
That pre-purchase examinations are a good service that vets can offer to current and potential clients. It would be nice if the delegates left the session keen to look at ways of promoting and providing them in their own practices.
To find out more about 'Practice Practicals' and other sessions, view the 2018 Discussion Forum programme
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