Vets report steep increase in levels of owner intimidation

Vets across the UK have experienced an alarming increase in levels of intimidation from animal owners over the past year, according to new figures.

Nearly six in ten (57%) of vets in clinical practice surveyed by the British Veterinary Association reported that they had felt intimidated by clients’ language or behaviour over the past year, an increase of 10 percentage points since the same question was asked in 2019.

The problem was particularly pronounced in small animal practice, where two-thirds of vets (66%) said that they had been on the receiving end of abusive, aggressive or threatening behaviour from pet-owning clients.

The statistics from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey also highlight that intimidating behaviour was often directed to others in the veterinary team, with nurses and receptionists often bearing the brunt of complaints, unreasonable demands and aggressive behaviour.

Over 82% of survey respondents said that they were aware of members of the team who had experienced intimidating language and behaviour from clients in the past year, up from 75% in Autumn 2019. In extreme cases, several vets reported having to lock receptions and call out the police in the face of threats of physical violence from aggravated clients.

James Russell, BVA president, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that any veterinary professional should have had to deal with threatening behaviour and abuse just for doing their job during a global pandemic.

“Veterinary teams have worked flat out over the past year to prioritise the animals in their care and had to adapt their working arrangements incredibly quickly to keep colleagues and clients as safe as possible.”

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