Vets & animal workers
Veterinary practice is situated within a unique healthcare environment; the patient is an animal and the client is a human with vets having a role to promote the health and wellbeing of both.
Research has suggested vets have high rates of mental health distress with four times the suicide rate of the general community. A considerable body of research has acknowledged unique workplace stressors including financial, psychological and ethical which can result in compassion fatigue and burnout. Ethical dilemmas are suggested as one of the leading causes of moral stress, as veterinarians encounter conflicts between client and patient interests which may also affect animal welfare.
Veterinary social work can provide psycho-education to assist vets with vicarious grief and compassion fatigue. We can also work with animal guardian grief and loss, treatment decisions, anticipatory grief in the context of euthanasia, and provide referral pathways for clients requiring further support.
Veterinary industry grapples with high suicide rate amid staff shortages, inadequate pay (2021)
Shortages of Vet's nationally in demanding and exhausting job (2021)
61% of households in Australia have a companion animal with 71% describing animals as family members.
Including animals as part of family systems in welfare assessments and genograms acknowledges these significant relationships.
As animals have shorter life spans than their human family, the grief experienced from the loss of an animal may be anthropocentrically disenfranchised by others.
Other areas involving social work:
Pets in Australia: A national survey of pets and people
American Psychological Association (APA) - positive MH impact of pets
Resources & research
Animals in Social Work, Why and How They Matter - Ryan, T. (Ed.) (2014)
Companion Animals and Domestic Violence Rescuing Me, Rescuing You - Taylor, N & Fraser, H.
Veterinary Social Work: Practice Within Veterinary Settings (USA) - Holcombe et al (2016)
Animals and social work: An emerging field of practice for Aotearoa New Zealand - Walker et al (2016)
Social Work Practitioners and the Human-Animal Bond - Risley-Curtiss (2010)
Making the link between family violence and animal abuse University of Melbourne
Social Capital and Pet Ownership - Wood et al (2017)
They burn brightly, but only for a short time: The role of social workers in companion animal grief and loss - Laing (2018)
Why We Need To Take Pet Loss Seriously - Winch (2018)
Loving You, Loving Me: Companion Animals and Domestic Violence - A (Visual) Research Project
Power and control wheel - animal abuse and domestic violence
Veterinary Social Work
The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, USA, has developed a program to help people through human-animal relationships.
This model focuses on the human side of the human - non-human animal bond in four primary areas:
For more information on the Certificate of Veterinary Social Work through the University of Tennessee: http://vetsocialwork.utk.edu/
Eco social Work
Ecological social work shifts the thinking of social work practice by placing the interrelationship between humans, other animals and the natural world at its centre.
Eco social work recognises and considers human’s connection to and reliance on Earth, and values the deep interconnections between the ecological, political, social and spiritual aspects of the natural world.
Utilising theories of environmental and social justice, spirituality and human rights, eco social work promotes sustainable practice within the biosphere.
Listen to this podcast for a good introduction
Eco social work (2022) Environmental and sustainable social work in everyday practice