2505 S 80th St, Tacoma, WA     

Copyright The University of Tennessee



​​Veterinary social work is a specialization which focuses on attending to the human needs at the intersection of veterinary and social work practice. Utilizing a strengths perspective and evidence-based practices, it includes four key areas: animal-related grief and loss, compassion fatigue, animal-assisted interactions (therapy and service animals), and the link between human violence and animal abuse. Veterinary social work is a growing field, and social workers are being called upon to work in settings where animals and people are in relationship with one another and in need of supportive services. Our focus at Summit Veterinary Referral Center is supporting clients through the grief process (anticipatory and bereavement), being a liaison and advocate between clients and the veterinary team, assisting clients with difficult treatment decisions and end-of-life care, and helping doctors and staff with stress management, and compassion fatigue.  

The Veterinary Social Work team understands that your animal is a beloved member of your family and that your relationship and experience is unique to you. We know how overwhelming and challenging it can be to face treatment decision-making and the end-of-life process. You are not alone - we are here for you. Our team is comprised of a licensed masters-level veterinary social worker and supervised masters-level social work students.

Our team is focused on supporting you in a variety of ways, including:

  • Outreach calls
  • Grief counseling and therapy (anticipatory and bereavement)
  • Facilitation of a free weekly drop-in Pet Loss Support Group for clients and the community, at University Place Library every 2nd Thursday 10:30 am - 12 pm and every 4th Thursday from 6:30 pm - 8 pm. Note: the remaining schedule for 2019 meetings are Thursday 11/14, 10:30 am - 12 pm and Thursday 12/12, 10:30 am - 12 pm. Due to the holidays, there will not be evening meetings in November or December.
  • Starting 11/12/19 - Facilitation of  a monthly online Pet Caregiver Support Group. This group will run every 2nd Tuesday from 6:30 pm - 8 pm, and is for pet owners who are caring for a beloved animal who is aging, has chronic or special needs or is facing a terminal illness. It is a free drop-in group, no registration or RSVP is required. Please contact Rachel Wright for video conferencing access to the group: [email protected] 
  • Starting Tuesday, 11/19 - Facilitation of a monthly Finding Meaning in Veterinary Medicine Group. This group will run every 3rd Tuesday from 6:30 pm - 8 pm and is open to all veterinary professionals in the community.. It is a free, drop in group, no registration or RSVP required. The group will run at Social Work's off-site offices: Surge South Tacoma 5401 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma 98409 (on the corner of 54th and S. Tacoma Way). There is ample free parking in back of the building in the parking lot and on the street.
  • Help with making and processing difficult decisions (e.g., quality of life assessment, treatment decisions, end of life care)
  • Act as a liaison between clients and the veterinary team
  • Be present before, during, and after euthanasia
  • Provide referrals to community support services, as needed
  • Provide educational resources, ritual ideas, and facilitate pet memorial events

Our Team:

Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC - veterinary social worker

Rachel is a clinical social worker and certified grief recovery specialist. She leads the veterinary social work team at Summit and supervises the social work interns. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Drug/Alcohol Studies from Washington State University, and her Master of Social Work from University of Washington. She has been a clinician since 1997, working with clients in a variety of settings including: community mental health, residential treatment, school-based, private practice, hospitals and hospice agencies. Since 2003, she has been a therapy animal team with multiple animals (dogs and rabbits!) and has incorporated animal assisted therapy as a powerful tool with clients in the counseling and therapy process. For six years, she also worked as the Director of Programs and Therapy Animal Program Manager for Pet Partners (Delta Society).

Rachel received her post-graduate training in veterinary social work from the University of Tennessee through the Colleges of Social Work and Veterinary Medicine. She was drawn to veterinary social work due to her personal experience of losing four of her beloved animals in two years – Mia, Rudy, Fred and Barley. Particularly difficult was the loss of her beloved Mia, a basset/labrador mix who courageously lived with lymphoma for nearly three years. During this time, Rachel worked collaboratively with an interdisciplinary veterinary team, and was a long-term client herself at Summit Veterinary Referral Center. In the years since these experiences, Rachel has continued to navigate caregiving for her animals, has learned a great deal about veterinary medicine, the “roller-coaster” ride of anticipatory loss and caregiving, and how to

navigate her personal grief process. She has learned many powerful lessons and feels honored and grateful to pay these gifts forward to others in need.

In her free time, she enjoys photography, reading, being in nature, and spending time with her husband and furry family. Her furry menagerie consists of: Byron, a 16 year old flat-coated retriever who thinks he’s still a puppy; Chloe and Cali, two senior kitties aged 21 and 16; Coach and Bear, two silly basset hounds; and Moose, a 20 lb Flemish giant bunny. 

Rachel provides fee-based counseling sessions for grief and loss, animal caregiving, and compassion fatigue. To contact Rachel, please email her at [email protected], or call 253-983-1114 

Allison Rolfe, masters-level social work extern
Allison is a graduate student earning her Master of Social Work degree through Boston University’s distance education program. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology through Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Allison completed her advanced level social work internship at Summit and is now an extern with our team, providing a higher level of support services to clients, staff and the community. She has experience in the pet loss and bereavement field through Summit and has run pet loss support groups, conducted individual counseling and support for those navigating anticipatory grief, bereavement, and treatment decision making, and has presented on the different areas of veterinary social work. She has experienced grief and loss of her own pets throughout her life, and currently has an adorable Shiba Inu named Jersey. 


​Tabitha Culp

masters-level social work intern, University of Washington

Alyssa Everitt

masters-level social work intern, University of Washington

Our masters-level students provide counseling sessions for grief and loss and animal caregiving at no cost.  

For more information or to access our veterinary social work services, please call 253-983-1114 or email at: [email protected] You may also talk with your veterinary team to refer you to our services.

For more information on the field of Veterinary Social Work, please visit: