Veterinary experts are urging pet professionals not to be left behind as the Fear Free initiative continues to transform animal and human lives.

Developed by more than 40 board-certified veterinary behaviorists and other animal care experts, Fear Free is a training and certification program designed to prevent and eliminate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets receiving veterinary care.

The Fear Free message has been spreading for several years by word of mouth, at conferences, and through the media. Since the certification program launched last year, more than 14,000 animal care professionals have enrolled in the course, representing more than 650 practices in 15 countries.

“I knew this cause would change our profession and the lives of animals,” said Fear Free founder, Marty Becker, DVM. “What I didn’t know is how rapidly and powerfully it would lift the careers and inspire the minds of individual veterinarians and others who care for pets.”

As the first wave of certified professionals hits their one-year anniversary of Fear Free certification, veterinary experts are urging them to take their skills to the next level by enrolling in advanced training and renewal.

“Fear Free is a proven set of procedures and protocols you must understand and implement for every pet, every visit, every day, forever,” said Stephen J. Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM, cardiology), founder of the first private group veterinary specialty practice in the US and author of the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. “Once you have started with the concept of Fear Free, it is important to continue learning and practicing and staying engaged in the process through CE, practice, reading the literature, and following the leaders.”

The Level 2 Fear Free course was developed in response to feedback from early adopters who became keenly aware that their training had given them both a greater joy in practice and a competitive advantage. They were now seeking more in-depth education in the areas of advanced handling techniques, in-hospital care, communications, marketing, and finance, with the goal of taking their professional lives to the next level.

Later this year, the Fear Free program will embark on a next level of its own. “We’ll be initiating a major awareness campaign for pet owners,” said Becker. “Not only will we be helping them reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in their pets’ day-to-day lives, but educating them that it’s essential they work with veterinary and pet professionals who hold their animal family members’ emotional wellbeing as equal to their physical wellbeing.”

Practices in the trenches observe that advancing Fear Free education is an essential step in remaining competitive. “We currently have 262 total associates registered, with 45 of them being veterinarians,” said Ted Sprinkle, DVM, CEO of Pet Partners, LLC in Wilton, New York. “We are believers in the pursuit of lifelong learning, and have found that advanced training and continued certification with Fear Free elevates our hospitals in their local communities.”

AAHA President Mark McConnell, BVMS, MRCVS, of the Emergency Animal Hospital in Springfield, Oregon, agreed. “One of the best values of the Fear Free program is the ability to continue to learn and improve,” he said. “New training and advanced certification modules ensure that your team stays current.”

Fear Free is as good for the epidemic of burnout and stress plaguing animal care professionals as it is for the wellbeing of the animals they care for. “My initial decision to invest in Fear Free for my staff stemmed from a desire to deliver better veterinary care for pets,” said Julie Reck, DVM, of the Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill, South Carolina. “But my decision to invest in Fear Free renewal will be motivated by the immense benefits the program offers our staff and organizational culture.”

That dual gift – to the animals and the caregivers – is one of the crowning achievements of Becker’s nearly four decades as a veterinarian. “Practicing the way we imagined it would be when we first dreamed of becoming veterinarians or veterinary nurses isn’t something we can afford to lose,” he said. “Renewing your certification doesn’t just provide you with the Level 2 course and preserve your access to the newest research, training videos, and marketing materials. It’s your opportunity to be at the forefront of veterinary medicine and to help shape the future of our profession.”

Current certified professionals can learn more and begin their Level 2 training at fearfreepets.com./courses/fear-free-level-2.

Not yet certified? Learn more about the Fear Free Certification Program and enroll at fearfreepets.com.

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