Veterinary and Community Care

Supporting social hearted veterinary practice for animal custodians experiencing vulnerabilities, to improve the health and wellbeing of animals and all who care for them.

This is achieved through providing veterinary and allied human health support services to people experiencing disadvantage and supporting a sustainable veterinary profession where healthy veterinary teams can thrive in a financially viable business.  

Our Purpose

Veterinary and Community Care’s purpose is to support the most vulnerable members of society in areas related to their responsibilities as companion animal custodians. This support will be provided financially and also through a variety of other veterinary and collaborative interventions, including the engagement of Veterinary Social Workers (VSWs).

It is also to improve veterinary mental health parameters. This will be achieved through the provision of community focused and socially centered veterinary services for clients who are experiencing disadvantage.  Veterinary teams participating in the Veterinary and Community Care network will be able to utilise the resources of Veterinary Social Workers and Social Hearted veterinary practice models, allowing them to offer this cohort of clients accessible and supported veterinary services for their animals.

This model provides scope for veterinary teams to participate in purposeful community centered work, whilst maintaining the value and integrity of veterinary services that are provided to clients who have the capacity to meet mainstream veterinary services.

Our Research

It is well recognised that the Human - Animal Bond (HAB) is growing in strength and importance. The role that animals play in contributing to the positive physical and mental health and wellbeing of their human custodian is undisputed.  As the HAB strength increases, so does the expectations of many veterinary clients relating to the services that are provided to them by the veterinary profession.  Often the barrier to the optimal veterinary care of a patient is their custodian, who may be experiencing disadvantage. The treatment requirements or expectations for a patient may not align with the client’s capacity or capability to provide that care.

This may be due to clients who are experiencing vulnerabilities such as: homelessness (or at risk of), family and domestic violence, financial disadvantage, physical or psychosocial disability, mental health distress or barriers due to age, geography, cultural/language, etc. When encountering clients in these circumstances, the veterinary team often face challenging and sometimes overwhelming pressures to provide the optimal outcome for both their client and their patient. 

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How do we help?

Veterinary and Community Care Ltd (VaCC) has been created through a meeting of minds of a group of colleagues with a shared vision.  Veterinary and Community Care’s founders engaged support from within and outside the veterinary profession.  This network of passionate people worked cooperatively to create the fundamental cornerstones of the organisation, resulting in Veterinary and Community Care being officially formed as a social enterprise company with charity and Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status in 2022.

The goal of Veterinary and Community Care is to provide community centered veterinary care that is accessible to the ever-increasing cohort of people experiencing disadvantage, and who benefit from the bond they have with the animals in their care.

The mental health of those working in the veterinary profession is closely linked to the challenges of managing the complexities that this cohort of clients can present. Veterinary teams may not be trained, experienced or supported to provide optimal care and service for these clients and their animals – which may result in poor wellbeing outcomes for all concerned.

Through community centered veterinary services, including the integral services provided by Veterinary Social Workers, wellbeing benefits will flow not only to these clients and the animals in their care, but also to the veterinary teams themselves, improving the mental health of the profession.

VaCC Partner Practices:

We partner with like minded community vet practices that are actively engaged in supporting our most vulnerable in the community. Below are our current vet partnerships.

VaCC Community Partner:

VaCC is very pleased to be working with aligned community partners. Together we support the human-animal bond by providing resources and programs to keep people and animals together and well.

Spay It Forward (SIF) is a program of WA Pet Project, a registered not-for-profit, and it is the longest-running, continuous desexing program in WA servicing the entire state. The SIF program works with vulnerable families by providing a partial subsidy to allow access to desexing, microchipping, and vaccination services. Currently, our vaccination service has only recently been introduced, and it is only available in select rural and remote regions of WA.
 
Hence, VaCC and SIF have developed a strong partnership that allows us to work collaboratively to facilitate the provision of essential veterinary and social services for people who are experiencing vulnerabilities that may be preventing them from accessing these services to care for their animals.
 
The Spay It Forward program is constantly growing and working in collaboration with community-minded veterinary practices across the state to deliver our program and ultimately improve the rate of desexed companion animals in WA. We would warmly welcome any new veterinary partnerships that would be interested in helping us reach this goal while simultaneously improving the lives of individual people, families, and their pets.   

When I needed a hand, I found a paw – interested to know more? ›

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), through its THRIVE veterinary wellness initiative has identified the need to “Prevent, Promote and Protect” the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession. THRIVE is an industry led veterinary wellness initiative that aims to support veterinarians and veterinary staff to lead satisfying, prosperous, and healthy careers.                            

The AVA also held the following position in their 2021 submission to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) for a review of their, Animal Care and Protection Act 2001: Where complex social situations exist, it is recommended that the government create positions of “veterinary social workers” who could be separated from the legal arm of the government and who could coordinate services to the person in need

Professionals Australia 2022 survey of the veterinary profession provided the following information and recommendations on the health and wellbeing of Australian veterinarians and the veterinary profession:  

Workplace mental health support – a consistent theme amongst respondents was the complete lack of mental health support for veterinarians who developed workplace-related mental health issues.

While it remained critical to address the root causes of workplace mental health hazards (high stress, overwork, understaffing, etc) providing proper support to veterinarians who were struggling with their mental health as a result of their work was seen as essential.

Action is urgently required by the industry, Professionals Australia, and government to address long-standing problems in the veterinary industry.

For more information on the challenges facing the veterinary profession, read:

Dealing with difficult pet owners

‘People have unrealistic expectations’: Disturbing reality pushes vets to distress

The value of veterinarians to Australia: Public and private benefits”

Supporting the Human-Animal Bond     

There is a wealth of information and research available on the benefits to humans of the Human-Animal Bond.

For more information on the Human-Animal Bond and research relating to this, visit

MEDICINE AND HEALTH Can pets help cure loneliness? New research plans to find out.

HABRI

Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession    

Veterinary Social Work (VSW) encompasses all three pillars of the AVA THRIVE program, in the support it can provide on a daily basis to the teams working in veterinary practice. 

The development and provision of VSW services can also be an action to address the problems as identified by the Professionals Australia survey.

To find out more about how Veterinary Social Work can support the veterinary professions, visit:

Meraki Social Work Services

Marie Holowaychuk