FOUR PAWS Took the Stage at SXSW 

U.S. Director discussed the mental health crisis in the veterinary profession


MARCH 20, 2023 – South By Southwest (SXSW), the conference-meets-music-and-film-festival, had a new participant this year: FOUR PAWS, the global animal protection organization, was honored to be among the list of renowned speakers taking part in this incredible confluence of change-makers and social innovators.

The panel entitled It’s 2032 and the Doctors are Gone, aimed to tackle an overlooked and underreported issue of mental health in medicine and healthcare, particularly physicians and veterinarians. Organized by Ogilvy, the global advertising agency, the lively discussion explored physicians’ mental health challenges, barriers to getting help, and how the health industry can provide better support services.

Danika Oriol-Morway, the U.S. Country Director FOUR PAWS International, highlighted the heartbreaking rise of suicide in veterinary medicine, the highest suicide rate of any profession in the United States. The global animal welfare organization works with thousands of animal caretakers and veterinarians around the world from mobile clinics to animal hospitals, to disaster and conflict zones.

Danika attained a Master of Science Degree from the Center for Animals and Public Policy at The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where she focused on issues of wildlife in captivity and human/animal conflicts. Danika consistently navigates the complex challenges people and animals face, including crisis settings like disaster areas, war zones. As a former veterinary technician and having worked in animal sanctuaries for over 10 years, she knows first-hand the mental health crisis affecting today’s veterinary professionals and animal caregivers.

Recently, FOUR PAWS has been investigating the lack of access to veterinary care and affordability, finding that there is a significant shortage of workers in the industry for a few reasons. “We have 4 out of 10 veterinarians considering leaving the field all together, and we have one 1 of 6 considering suicide.” Danika explained by sharing the staggering statistics from the Associated Veterinary Partners. The high number of veterinarians retiring, coupled with the financial burdens of private practices and low numbers of veterinary students, leaves current pet health systems overwhelmed or services inaccessible for a lot of Americans.

“Without veterinarians, we have no pet care: This is a huge crisis for animal welfare,” continued Danika. Danika and her Boston-based team have worked with the global organizations vast network of veterinarians and caretakers, along with other partners across the country. FOUR PAWS has offices in 15 countries and has 13 wild animal sanctuaries and employs or contracts with hundreds of veterinarians and animal caretakers every year. “The consensus of our conversation is that this industry is at a breaking point, along with everyone working in it,” Danika explained further, “the mental health of veterinarians and animal caretakers is extremely concerning for, without them, there is no animal welfare”.

FOUR PAWS’s Boston based office partnered with Ogilvy in 2022 on a digital public awareness campaign to raise money for the FOUR PAWS’ work Ukraine for companion animals called Pets of War. The power of Pets of War initiative reminding us all “Your Reach is Bigger Than You Think.” As you would expect, the war has displaced millions of Ukrainians and hundreds of thousands of their pets and animals.  Pets of War illustrates, through creative designs, the visual collective yearning to reach out and help: Connecting those who can to those on the ground.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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