As a veterinarian of twenty plus years in practice, I have heard many complaints from individuals (clients and others) who have felt mislead and betrayed by my colleagues concerning the treatment of their beloved four-legged family member and often poor outcomes suffered. Though I have never had a conflict with a client over their pet, I have learned that this is unfortunately not a rare occurrence. I have never heard of any issue involving a dispute between client and veterinarian being satisfactorily resolved.

Debra’s book nails some of the most important underlining defects in our culture, in the veterinary medical profession itself (the entrenched methods of dealing with these issues) and legal system which do NOT facilitate conversation, the delegation of responsibility, or any positive resolution in these matters.

As is noted throughout her extremely well written and easy to understand text, the author accurately states what is most often left behind is anger, resentment and distrust which will permeate many other similar relationships. For people and their pets, this could mean hesitating or even foregoing future interactions with the veterinary medical profession. In this instance, it is often the beloved pet’s health which is most likely to suffer. On the other side, are often well intentioned veterinary practitioners, who through perhaps inadequate communication skills or unfortunate and unexpected poor treatment outcomes feel victimized by the public (whose interests it is their duty to uphold).

Debra’s insight into the belabored court system (that does not recognize companion animals as living beings) and veterinary malpractice insurance structure is uncanny. Both stymie any productive communication between the parties, leaving facts undisclosed, and the voices of all involved unheard.

Though mediation might not be a solution in all situations (for example when there is intentional wrongdoing and parties will not come to the table) it should be required as a first step before the filing of any complaint. It makes no sense that insurance companies will not underwrite mediation as part of the constructive settlement of all disputes regarding animals.

Veterinarians should be encouraged to sit down and discuss disputes, perhaps resolving misunderstanding and maintaining good relationships with their clients and the public in general. In taking the comments of another reviewer to the next step, “How to Use Mediation to Resolve Conflicts over Animals” should be required reading for all professional Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students and licensed practitioners. Bravo!!

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