Written by Dana Call, RVT,VTS (ECC), CHT-V
I have worked in the veterinary profession in a variety of roles for the last 4 decades and
for the most part, I have found it to be challenging and very rewarding. I was born to do this.
There is an alarming, shocking and tragic trend among my colleagues that has escalated to
what I believe to be a tipping point for those of us who have dedicated our lives to animal
health, welfare and well-being. Divorce. Depression. Anxiety. Poverty. Abusive relationships.
Suicide. My colleagues are falling away from the profession they worked so hard for and they
can’t be replaced. Men and women in the veterinary field have a statistically higher rate of
divorce and suicide than other professions.
Think about a person you care about who may be in an abusive relationship. What advice and help would you give them in order to help them get out of the abusive relationship? Abusers are manipulative, controlling and sometimes pose a physical threat to their victim. We have all watched enough crime TV to formulate an idea of how abusers operate. Now, imagine that someone you care about is about to go on a blind date with someone they know absolutely nothing about; their past, their personality, their good qualities or their bad
qualities. Let’s say things didn’t go according to the expectation of the blind date and now your loved one is experiencing a barrage of hurtful, abusive and harassing communications that have affected their ability to earn a living. This is what’s happening to people I care about in the veterinary profession. They are walking into exam rooms blind and unknowing that they
are about to become victims of abuse and cyber-bullying. The abusive relationship is with pet
owners, the very people they have been trained and educated to serve. Believe me when I
say that no one understands how emotional it can be when a beloved pet friend is sick or
injured better than anyone who works in a veterinary hospital. We are trained to set our
emotions aside and care for the pet. We understand that pet owners may not be able to do
that and we empathize with them in their time of crisis. We understand that stressful
situations can cause a person to say and do things that they may not normally say or do. What
I want to bring to light is something beyond that. A person who intentionally sets out to manipulate or cause harm through their verbal or written attacks on social media. A person
who seeks power and control through abusive tactics.
According to an article by verywellmind, abusers and bullies will verbally and in writing call you names, use words to shame you, make jokes at your expense, humiliate you in public, criticize you in public, yell, scream and swear at you and makes threats. In a RockDove solutions blog, cyberbullies are people who intentionally provoke others online by ranting, using inflammatory or offensive language, or spreading misinformation just to get a rise out of an individual or organization.
Sadly, this abusive relationship is ending like so many others. Someone dies because the warning signs were ignored, the threat was too great, the burden was unbearable, the depression was too much and the support was too little- too late. People I care about are being publicly persecuted without a fair trial. Facts are misrepresented, or completely omitted and the language is completely abusive with the intent of public humiliation, shaming, threats and demands. Inflammatory remarks designed to rile up the masses to join in! Many of my colleagues aren’t in a position that allows them to leave or end the abusive relationship. They have a family, a mortgage and massive student loans to repay and they need an income. So, every day, they walk through the exam room door not knowing if they will be bullied, abused, harassed and slandered on social media. These pet owners are ruining the veterinary profession and its livelihood.
We are not in this for the money- read that again- If there was a magical way we could all live for free with all our personal and family financial needs met and get medications,equipment, supplies, and a hospital with all that is needed to practice veterinary medicine for free, I promise we would! That is not our reality, nor is it the reality of anyone in any other profession. Somehow the measuring stick for veterinary professionals is much different than other professions and for some reason, some people think public smear campaigns are ok. It isn’t ok, it is abuse in the most cowardly fashion. We are people, with names and we are a close community of professionals. We share information and collaborate with others in our field. We care about the deadly impact that cyber bullying and verbal abuse has on our profession. According to Not One More Vet, one in six veterinarians contemplates suicide, that is three times the national average. Please think long and hard about the impact your words may have on a person before you post. Veterinary hospitals serve their communities by creating jobs and protecting animals and people from diseases. We must preserve and protect this profession because animals are such an important part of our society.