Media’s emotional blackmail is killing veterinarians

Dr Sarah Boston
4 min readMar 5, 2019

Emotional blackmail is the new term being used to characterize the pressure that clients put on veterinarians to care for their pets, to feel guilty about charging, and for making money. It has catapulted our profession into a crisis of burnout, compassion fatigue and suicide.

Veterinarians are currently the profession with the highest rate of suicide. There are so many factors that contribute to making this profession the hardest job you will ever love.

One new aspect is media reaction. They are killing us. Literally. There have been several high-profile stories in the press recently where a pet owner takes a sick pet, often a puppy, to the emergency hospital for treatment. The owner is given a quote and cannot afford to pay. The puppy is sick enough that, without treatment, it will die. The veterinarian, who has likely been through this heartbreaking scenario countless times, tries to offer options to save the puppy. They are likely even a bit blinded by the fact that they just can’t euthanize another puppy that could be treated and have a happy life. They will go over third-party payment plans (they exist), asking for help from family and friends, Go Fund Me campaigns, trying a less expensive treatment option that is not optimal or euthanasia. The last-resort option is to have the pet surrendered to the hospital to try to find a rescue group or owner (often someone who works at the hospital) who will assume financial and legal responsibility for the pet. Hopefully, the treatment will be successful and the pet can be rehomed. This is a monumental effort on the part of the veterinarians and staff that try to make this work, and likely costs the hospital money. Veterinarians are not looking for more homeless sick puppies to rescue. We don’t want this.

The pet is surrendered to the hospital and no good deed goes unpunished. The pet owners, justifiably heartbroken by their loss, will sometimes go to the media, who jump on the bandwagon to try to get their puppy back. This scenario will invariably vilify the veterinarian and staff, who have gone to great lengths to save this puppy’s life. Some of them have done far more than the previous owner was willing to do. The media are executing emotional blackmail here, and it is on a massive scale and generally brings in our friend, the…

Dr Sarah Boston

Dr Sarah Boston is a veterinary surgical oncologist,author(Lucky Dog,House of Anansi Press),cancer survivor & comedian @drsarahboston