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Our Fear-Free Starr

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Dr Michelle Starr has become the first of our vets to attain their Fear-Free qualification.

Already a very accomplished and experienced vet, Dr Michelle has been keen to broaden her skill set and embrace the Fear-Free philosophy that has begun to change the way animal health is being conducted around the world.

The Fear-Free organisation logo
Started by Dr Marty Becker, the Fear-Free movement is promising to change the way we think about animal treatments

The fear-free initiative was started in the US by veterinarian Dr Marty Becker, who has been a passionate advocate for pets and the people who love them and aims to make visits to the veterinarian a happy event for owners and their furry family.

The Fear-free approach is a combination of organisation, brand, certification program and philosophy which have combined to become one of the biggest waves of change across the veterinary industry in the last 50 years.

According to founder Dr Becker, 25 to 30 per cent of pets currently visiting the vet need sedation, which puts their health at risk - particularly in the case of elderly pets, while leaving stressed pets unsedated can lead to difficulty both diagnosing and treating them, as they are more likely to suppress their symptoms.

By taking Dr Becker’s fear free approach the aim of the veterinarian or pet professional is to reduce the fear animals feel during vet visits by focusing on spending time adapting the animal’s environment and responding to its behaviour, minimising fear.

Reducing and minimising the patient animal’s fear is better for the animal’s emotional health, while less fear means calmer pet less likely to resist treatment, and the physical work of holding or restraining a pet is reduced.

All this combines to help the veterinarian make better diagnoses and leads to much better outcomes for the pet patients.

Dr Starr bends down and manipulates the back leg of a black and white border collie as it lays calmly on a rug
Dr Starr uses her Fear-Free techniques to keep Bonnie calm while she is examined

To gain her Fear-free qualifications Dr Starr had to complete an 8-module certification program, commit to a minimum level of continued professional development and pay an annual fee which contributes to the Fear-free research program.

In return, Dr Starr gains access to the most current Fear-free research and ideas, elective learning modules, and mentoring opportunities to enhance and advance her skills.

Dr Starr’s Fear-free accreditation allows her to not just enhance her own skills, but also to pass her new knowledge to colleagues as well.

Dr Starr sees many benefits in adopting the Fear-free program.

“Using Fear-Free techniques that reduce stress and anxiety works out better for everyone,” says Dr Starr.

“The pet is less stressed, which helps me get a more accurate diagnosis, but another bonus is that with less stress for the animal there less stress for the owners, and vet visits can become a calm and accepted part of your pets’ routines.”

Dr Michelle Staff examines a rabbit using her Fear-Free techniques
Our new Fear-Free Starr, Dr Michelle practices her new skills on one of her favourite pocket pets!

Dr Starr is most looking forward to using some of her newly learned techniques on our smallest customers. During her time at GVS Dr Michelle has developed an interest in the more ‘unusual’ pets – rabbits, ferrets, mice, rats, and guinea pigs - and native Australian mammals including kangaroos and possums.

Unlike cats and dogs, who are generally more used to being handled, many of these “pocket pets” have an extra fear of being handled, and Dr Michelle’s new techniques are ideally suited to reducing their stress.

Here at GVS we’re very proud of the way Dr Michelle has taken the steps to expand her skills and lead the way to a Fear-Free practice.

We know that for many of our staff it’s a career and a passion, not just a job, and Dr Starr’s commitment to making vet visits easier for you and your pet is just another reason why we’re the vets your pets would choose!

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