SUNDAY-MAIL: Margaret Bale (in vet uniform) with alpacas
SUNDAY-MAIL: Margaret Bale (in vet uniform) with alpacas

Vets calling it quits after animal owners attack

VETS are having to worry more about attacks by humans than animals as aggressive pet owners refuse to pay their bills.

Veterinarians who have left the profession or considered doing so have spoken out about the "emotional blackmail" and physical abuse from pet owners that "takes a toll".

Brisbane vet Margaret Bale is one of many who changed jobs over the constant abuse.

"I just worked out this is my dream job and a lot of people who go into this career are intelligent and very empathetic people - flight over fight - and I think that impacts (vets) and takes a toll when we get abused for just doing our job," she said.

Ms Bale said she would never forget the first time she was physically abused by a pet owner after saving his Maltese dog.

"I was working basically 24/7 at this point because I was the only vet for the clinic. It was a Saturday night at about 10pm and I was totally ready for bed," said Ms Bale, who will appear on SBS's Insight program on Tuesday.

"This gentleman called saying his dog had eaten an entire chicken. I could see that he was a bit intoxicated, but his dog also had a legitimate problem.

"The first thing (I thought was), 'Do I want to go and see this guy at 10pm? No. Is he intoxicated, is that a risk? Yes', but the empathy kicks in because if I don't help, this dog is going to die."

Vet Margaret Bale with her pet Alpaca. Picture: Peter Wallis
Vet Margaret Bale with her pet Alpaca. Picture: Peter Wallis

At midnight, after successfully operating on the dog and asking the man to pay $220 for the life-saving procedure, he pushed Ms Bale against a wall.

"He literally launched at me with this tirade of abuse, calling me a b**** and saying I only do my job for money. I just froze and told him to leave without paying."

A senior Sunshine Coast vet who asked not to be named said his staff had received death threats. And another senior Brisbane vet, who owns a practice, said the abuse "happens all the time".

"I try to rationalise it because people are stressed and suffering. I try to be empathetic," she said.

"It's a subtle wearing down, these things happening again and again.

"I became a vet because I love people and animals and I want to help them, but it's tough."

Originally published as Vets calling it quits after animal owners attack


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