Animal Care Challenges Include High Suicide Rate for Veterinarians


The Monroe County Animal Care Campus celebrated its second annual anniversary of being built on April 27th. With over a thousand cats and dogs treated since Jan. 1, 2021, challenges come with the territory. 

“The nature of the job is you address whatever is on fire right in front of you,” Rebecca Warren, Director of the Animal Care Campus, said.

Each day at the clinic brings another fire to put out, and those who work there are often left with little time to rest in between. They can go from wrestling a dog over 100 lbs. to having to euthanize a patient all in one day, and that emotional roller coaster isn’t isolated to the Animal Care Campus alone.

According to a CDC study, veterinarians are more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Men who are veterinarians are 1.6 times more likely to commit suicide, and women who are veterinarians are 2.4 times more likely. 

The authors of the study said that access to pentobarbital, a drug used for euthanasia, as well as job-related stressors contributes to this high rate of suicide. Those stressors include high levels of debt, working with injured or dying animals, routinely having to euthanize patients and more.

Warren said that on top of the mental and physical demands of the job, it also comes with a stigma that veterinary professionals are only in the field to make money, not to actually care for pets. Additionally, misinformation online leads to difficulties in explaining to owners the kind of care their pet might need, said Warren.

“You have a community of incredibly professional, loving, caring, empathetic individuals who give their all, who have gone through years of school, and we have owners come in who say ‘Well, I looked on google and this is what they need,’” Warren said.

Despite this, Warren said at the Animal Care Campus, they try to combat the stressors they face and foster a healthy environment, and sometimes, that means limiting what patients the clinic takes.

“We really strive for working within our means which means there are some cases we can’t see,” Warren said. “There are some things you would have to go to Indy for, but that’s part of us protecting our community of professionals.”

Veterinarian Jessica Gillatt said that it comes down to helping as many pets as they can while still working within the clinic’s means, and it’s one of the most challenging parts of the job.

“Sometimes you just can’t solve every problem, and we can only extend certain services so far, and we can only offer so many services to keep it low cost so it’s this fine balancing act,” Gillatt said. “It’s the nature of the beast.”

Despite these challenges, the clinic offers more than just medical services. It includes a pet food pantry and even emergency housing for displaced pets. This allows for pets to be housed when their owners temporarily have no place to keep them.

Additionally, despite being a nonprofit, the veterinary clinic also offers adjusted pricing for those suffering from financial difficulty or who are part of a government assistance program. Gillatt said people sometimes come from hours away to receive care because of their pricing system. While there are some prices they cannot always adjust, such as surgeries, Gillatt said they try to work with clients whenever they can to make veterinary care affordable and educational.

“We genuinely are here just to try and help the pets that can’t get it otherwise,” Gillatt said.

This is all part of their commitment to helping as many animals as they can, said Warren, like a 100 lbs. German shepherd or a stray cat covered in their own feces who has never been handled before.

They’re hazards that come with the job, but Warren says it’s one fire they’ve gotten good at putting out.

“Squeeze cheese and peanut butter make fast friends out of anybody,” Warren said.