“Fear Free” Care Now Available for Pets at HART for Animals

HART staff earns certifications to ease pets’ fear, anxiety during visits

Can you imagine telling your dog, “Let’s go to the vet!” and seeing her tail wag? How about getting out your cat’s carrier and seeing him come running?

Pet owners won’t need to imagine it when they visit the HART Animal Center in Accident, Maryland. The Director of the Bredel Clinic, Dr. Jessy Vandevender, and her staff, and the department managers and supervisors in the Adoption Wing, Bed ‘n Bark Inn and MuttWorks Grooming, are all part of a new initiative in veterinary medicine designed to ease the stress, fear, and anxiety so many pets experience while at the veterinarian.

Known as “Fear Free,” the training and certification program help veterinarians and animal care-givers modify their procedures, handling, and facilities to help pets feel safe and comfortable while receiving the medical care they need.

The “Fear Free” initiative aims to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments. Utilization of Fear Free methods and protocols leads to reduction or removal of anxiety triggers, which creates an experience that is rewarding and safer for all involved including pets, their owners, and veterinary health care teams.

“I saw how fearful many dogs and cats can be when visiting a veterinarian clinic or boarding facility,” says Dr. Jessy. “Many of these pets have bad experiences and owners are reluctant to bring them for care or to leave them for an extended stay. With this training, our staff at HART can help alleviate the stress and anxiety and create a happier visit for pets and their owners. The adoptable animals in the Adoption Wing are also happier because of the training the staff received.”

Founded by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, the Fear Free Certification Program was developed by board-certified veterinary behaviorists, veterinary technician behavior specialists, board-certified veterinary anesthetists, well-known veterinary practice management experts, and board-certified veterinary practitioners experienced in Fear Free methods.

“Providing veterinarians with the tools they need to ease this burden of fear and anxiety for our patients is the pinnacle of my 37-year veterinary career,” said Dr. Becker, who was dubbed “America’s Veterinarian” by Dr. Oz and appeared on Good Morning America for 17 years. “Veterinary professionals are hungry for this information. Animals and their humans need and deserve it. And now it’s here!”

To become certified, those participating in the program are required to complete a comprehensive, 8-part educational course and exam. They also have to take continuing education to remain certified.

The HART staff who have completed and are certified in the “Fear Free” course are Bredel Clinic staff: Dr. Jessy Vandevender, Veterinarian Technician, Stacey Hershman, Veterinarian Assistants, Sarah Maust and Courtney Lowery; Adoption Wing staff: Adoption Manager and Behaviorist Debbie Snyder, Adoption Wing and Rescue & Transport Manager Caroline Robison, and Supervisors, Kelsey VanSickle and Ashley Diehl, and Adoption Coordinator, Janessa Beitzel; Bed ‘n Bark Inn staff: Manager, Rachel Dudok and Supervisors, Kerri Sanders and Megan Sherbin; and groomer, Heather Umbel.

Pet owners who would like their pets to experience the “Fear Free” difference can schedule an appointment at the Bredel Clinic, or MuttWorks, make a reservation at the Bed ‘n Bark Inn, or visit our adoptable animals, by calling 301.387.7729.